The Dark Plain


The Dark Plain Sloan St. James


Any similarities to persons living or deceased are purely coincidental. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means. the owner. 4 .James.ISBN: 0-9728450-4-6 Library of Congress Control Number: 2004103950 All rights reserved. included but not limited to electronic or mechanical without permission from Sloan St.

Dedication I dedicate this to the one man that I will love until the end of time. 5 .

6 .

this story came to be. Scott. Also because of you. and those many. I am beyond grateful for what you did to bring out the best of my story. 7 .Acknowledgements I would like to thank my editor. To my son. The Golden Quill and PRISM. Chrys Wagner. I’d like to thank you for creating the cover I envisioned from the beginning. Also I would like to thank all my readers that generously made this book so popular and the winner of Bookseller’s Best. many hours that we spent talking ideas through.

right after Conner’s death. he ended up minus a car and spending the next month in rehab with a wracked up knee. How many prayers could be said to absolve a father of the murder of his child? The rustling sound of a turning chair had Jack bracing himself for the cleric’s blast of fury. of course. “God and I haven’t come to terms with my penance yet. He eliminated that option the day he became a murderer. an infant with this disease would die within a few hours of birth. Tim had no choice but to fluctuate between friend and cleric based purely on Jack’s needs. Then. his friend’s words floated like 8 . Jack began to abuse their friendship by shutting both priest and friend out of his life. Through those dark months. As the scratch of wood against wood took over the silence. “Unless. like Conner. Jack began purging himself through liquid fire. Normally. “Bless me. he swallowed to clear a path for his words. you’re here to actually make your confession?” There was no mistaking the familiar ring of hope in Tim’s voice. he’d crawl inside a bottle until finally. Father. for I have sinned. For twenty-four years. Some rare cases. Night after night. Conner. Jack prayed for absolution for being the one who passed the death sentence on to his child. one rainy night.” He took a shallow breath to steady his heart. now!” the priest ordered in a sharp whisper. survived to the ripe old age of three. When none came. Instead. Being here wouldn’t change his collision course with Hell.” “Jack.” Jack’s stomach clenched. stop that. “I murdered my son. “If you’d like to talk about it. was born with truncus arteriosus.” Tim said in a strained voice. During those three years. six months ago. he took what he thought was the only viable option he had left.Chapter 1 The scent of burning candles and ripe contrition layered the small-darkened space and clogged in his throat. a genetic disease that devoured the heart of the developing fetus. “Confession?” Jack stirred the word through a heavy dose of sarcastic chuckling so Tim understood there wasn’t any chance of that. then meet me in the rectory. Father Tim Sladek and Jack Wolfe had managed to keep their boyhood alliance strong until three years ago when Jack’s son. Instead of finding peace.

“You might be right about that.” “She’ll come to regret her decision.” The edge of Jack’s voice sharpened. He knew full well that whiskey and wet roads never mix well with grief.” “But she missed so many of the good times. “Sure she will. his first steps. there we have it. “You have to stop blaming yourself for Conner’s death. but He must’ve been napping the night I thought about running my car up the tree. and…” “And his last breath. The sharp tsk of Jack’s tongue put an exclamation point before his next sentence. “Remember.” Jack paused to take a breath. We’re right back to where we started. “Okay. and neither was leaving a kid with his father. then maybe you can tell me who I should blame? Maybe Rebecca?” On a sigh. “She’ll feel bad she missed seeing her child’s tiny blond head on that white satin pillow. “So. the murderer. That’s if those so-called “pains of Hell” weren’t just a fairy tale spewed out like all that other religious crap. “What sins did she commit?” He didn’t wait for Tim’s answer. but the cadence of his words slowed. she just didn’t have enough guts to stick around till the end. He held his breath as the pain found its own level.” The priest’s hushed tones broke through Jack’s thoughts. but it had all the earmarks of a devout friend. Jack uttered the name while folding it in contempt.” A small chuckle bubbled out a fraction before Jack’s answer. “Someday she’ll seek God’s forgiveness for her sins. Tim snapped out his reply. “Sins?” Jack asked.” The small quiver of compassion he heard in Tim’s voice triggered Jack’s impatience. even with the hint of prejudice tightening around the friend’s vocal cords.” Jack knew that Tim the priest was talking now. “Hell.a soft caress through the partition. Jack took that as his cue to do what he came to do. “See. not marrying me sure wasn’t one. 9 . To him it was only a benchmark of his eternity.” Tim’s definition of Jack’s accident was that of a cleric.” “Thankfully. slamming into Tim’s words.” Tim said with an exhale.” Jack said. no sins there.” A scorching pain shot up from Jack’s knee into his thigh.” Jack drew a long breath. He makes no mistakes. “The way I see it.” he snapped. “God gave you your son for a reason. “Like Conner’s first words. To me. God was there.

Tim. “Far from it. That was the second time today the raven-haired woman had startled him. my friend. Aer Lingus makes sure you’ve got enough room to stretch out.” “Jack!” Tim’s voice shook with surprise. made Jack realize how much he was going to miss the man and their friendship.” “Asinine?” Jack chuckled. Calatin McCoy. coupled with the silence that grew between them. “And hell. That’s the real reason I’m here. Tim asked. whiskey only played a minor role when I took on that tree.” “You’re not as talkative as most Yanks. that’s gotta be a first. who knows.“I don’t want you to take this as a confession. Even through the thick material.” This time Jack didn’t even try holding back the hollow laugh that rumbled in his chest. not God.” Jack snapped his gaze around. Breaking the lengthy pause. “Jack. “I might’ve lost my faith in God. but Jack assumed since his aunt was in her seventies. it just might be the pilot’s time to go. Far from it. “In first class. the scar ached under his delicate touch. “In a confessional? Why Father Tim.” Jack heard the corrosive tone in his own voice. Tim. 10 .” Tim garbled out a cough that had all the ear markings of blasphemy. you are the most asinine man I know. This woman had to be just touching her late twenties. but that rainy night. He and I still aren’t on the best of terms. but in clear voice he volleyed. so he added. “I’m telling you this. but not in our friendship. His aunt Kaite’s letter stated that her friend. too. her friend would be a little older. The first came when she introduced herself at Shannon Airport as his appointed ride out to Tirnageata.” There was no mistaking. “To say good-bye before I hop on that plane. Tim’s slow exhale marked the level of his frustration.” Tim clucked his tongue. “Will your knee be able to take that long flight over the Atlantic?” Jack reached down to his outstretched leg and ran a grazing finger along the outer seam of his jeans. would meet him.” Jack stretched out the end of one sentence to meet the other. That.

” Jack’s heart repeated. her age wasn’t important to him. Then again. “To be honest. you’re gonna get wet. and soon you’ll be well and we’ll travel to the land of leprechauns and Finn McCool. “Mist. someday Daddy? Iralan?” Jack brushed his fingers over the bag nestled in his lap. then?” Cala’s question interrupted his thoughts. Rain. and he slowly shook his head. Lies like. son. older or not. He remembered that overwhelming feeling of coming home. In his mind. He’d just turned six when he and his parents came for a visit. but mist kisses your face.” Cala chuckled. “I was only trying to catch some of the scenery through the rain. “What?” Jack asked.” Jack shrugged his shoulders.” “Does Ireland live up to the memories you’ve had of it.Still. That he didn’t have to sit through a long train ride out to the western shores of Ireland was enough. The Irish had a talent for using platitudes. Jack turned his gaze back to the rain-streaked window and his distorted reflection. the monster who lied and made false promises to a dying child. Yet.” he said. “Iralan. That’s what we call mist. the friendly people. The rivers of rain running down the glass bent and twisted his dark eyes and contorted his mouth.” He caught the profile of her smile as she flashed it out toward the wet road. As the silence settled between them. spearing her with his gaze. the fun he’d had running over the crags along the shoreline. “I’m sorry. Either way. why shouldn’t he feel that way? Hadn’t 11 . “someday. “Someday.” His mind quickly tripped back to that summer. whether or not they fit. His arms ached with an emptiness that only a parent who loses a child could feel. doesn’t look like much has changed in the last twenty years. this grotesque image was the real Jack Wolfe. He remembered so much of that vacation. it was far more than that. “I’d be askin’ if Ireland is all what you remembered?” He hitched his chin to the windshield and answered. the needles won’t hurt. “That’s not rain. whereas rain washes your tears away. The heavy gray skies darkened the car’s womb and turned his brown hair near black. Jack could still hear Conner’s whimper.” “Aye. Her soft smile jolted Jack’s annoyance right out of him.

” Cala chuckled.” she said. and I only a wee one. when you’re six. and a little girl who. now?” “You were about two or three. I’d be guessin’. glancing at his driver. Cala’s smile widened. “I guess six-four is a little tall for an Irishman. Kaite’s very special to me. Yet.his parents.. “There isn’t much in Ireland bigger than you now. you instantly started laughing. her features already showed the surprise that was in her mind.I think. “Well. “Och. “There was a boy I remember fighting with. “Dublin also. When their words stagnated. that bad. and he was once again home. offering both her words and her smile to the windshield. did you have a set of lungs. “Except for you Americans. “Although. The way the corners of her blue 12 . you being a lad of six on your last visit. called this island home? Ireland was in his blood.” Jack pushed out a soft. I remember you.” Jack admitted.” The lines in Cala’s brow deepened as she heaved a sigh.” He added a lining smile to the end of his statement.” They shared a few moments of conversation until they used up the common ground they’d found. though. until Cala broke the silence again. “Or any nationality.” Jack’s gaze lingered on Cala’s face. When Cala gave him a quick glance.” his words trailed off as he unfurled his brow.” “A headache. things have a way of looking a helluva lot bigger. I remember when Kaite picked you up. as far back as anyone could remember. “Oh. I imagine. the strain of strangers returned for a few more ticks of the clock. I believe it must have somethin’ to do with that special air you have in the States. “If I’m not mistaken.. “It is if you like to chew on it. grandparents and generations of Donegals.” Cala’s face tightened.” “You mean we’d met back then?” Jack stared hard at her while he searched the deep folds of his memory.” Jack said. “Aye. you gave me a headache. I’m guessin’ ’tis why you don’t remember our meetin’. Even your mother couldn’t stop your crying once you got started. ’tis it?” “Chicago has its days.” Cala shot a quick worried look at him. double-time snort. “You do?” Jack’s widening smile felt strange on his face. but damn. Remembering the toddler and seeing the woman she’d become made Jack feel every bit his age.

but. only small bits of conversation broke their long stretches of silence. Far off in the distance. I’m afraid. The woman’s bent body. I’ll settle down to do what’s expected of me. his thoughts. slowly shaking her head. Their heads were buried between their shoulders and their backs rolled against the rain. Ahead. but so emaciated that his bare legs looked like sticks. He couldn’t manage much more than a grin in reply. I only meant that for now I’m doin’ a little gallivantin’.” Cala answered. Even that faded quickly. cautious steps clearly indicated that she was fighting against time.. but I manage to make it back home on the week’s end.” Her statement surprised Jack. I’ve a position as a barrister’s assistant in Oughterard. “She’s tried to hide it.. The way the sloppy fog swirled around the pair’s feet 13 . As the car drew near the pair. and the Irish mist. Jack wasn’t sure why.” She turned quickly to him and sent him an easy smile. slowly swallowing up the road. He’d seen homeless people who appeared to be in better shape than these two.” Jack did a double take before Cala’s eyes flashed with laughter. and he returned to his reflection. ’Twas a home she made. For the next few hours. I guess I’m a rebel of sorts. “Don’t be worryin’. walking the middle of the road was a hunchbacked woman and a small boy. The boy seemed to be five or six. a strange shiver crawled up Jack’s spine.” Her words slowed but didn’t stop as she centered her concentration on the road ahead. “You have spies. but I thought. “How’s she doing?” Jack asked. He tried to attest the feeling to the rain and the city traffic. Jack shook his head. mind you. a crawling fog moved over the ground. but it wasn’t just a place to be livin’ she gave me. he’d learned that it’s a weak one. I’m no Sinn Fein or IRA.” Jack smiled.don’t you live in the village?” “Nay. but an edginess began grating on his nerves. you could see that she was cutting into a hard memory. He knew his aunt had a big heart. “Someday. “After my parents died. from a few comments in her letters. and her slow. trying to keep the concern out of his voice. “Not a’tall well these days. Kaite took me in. but the tight row houses had long since been replaced by a dotting of farms.eyes moved downward. but my spies told me otherwise.

and slithered its way upward set the hairs on the back of his neck on end. In seconds, the murky vapor had completely devoured the boy’s legs. Jack craned his neck and angled his head to get a clearer view through the windshield. Before he could take his next breath, the fog shot upward. Then like a huge hand it slammed over the woman and the boy. “Jesus Christ!” Jack pushed the words out as the car plowed through the spot where the pair had been walking. Nothing was there! The old woman! The boy! Both had disappeared! Jack gripped the bag in his lap, and whipped his head around. All he saw was the slice the car made through the fog. “What the hell! Did you see that?” Jack shouted. “What should I be a seein’?” Cala snapped back, slashing her head from side to side to see out all the windows at once. Suddenly, Jack couldn’t speak as another shiver clawed up his spine. When the violent quake stopped, he turned to Cala for answers, but saw only questions in her eyes. His blood felt like ice as it traveled through his veins, and he shook again. Cala’s brow pulled down as she said, “’Tis a wee bit nippy in here, I know. I apologize for the discomfort. I’ve been meanin’ to get the heater fixed. Though I do have to admit that in the hustle of the city, I never find an extra minute to accomplish all that needs doin’,” she said, adding a small smile for emphasis. “’Tis why I love comin’ home; time’s near stopped in Tirnageata. Too busy struggling with an explanation of what he’d just seen, Jack caught only a word or two. The logical side of his brain kicked in and tried to block out the eerie images. There’s no way in hell that could’ve been real. Still, for the last few months, he’d downed enough alcohol to pickle his brain. Could be some residue of that he figured. Sweat trickled down his spine. If he has marinated his brain, how in the hell could he finish what he started? Christ, all he needed was a week or two, and then it’d be done. He could surely hold on to that thin thread for that long. All he had to do was ignore shit like this and concentrate on the plan. “Although,” she pulled on the word until it broke, then added a soft chuckle as she continued, “we’ll soon be chargin’ right onto the information highway.”


Instinctively, Jack’s mind clicked in. He pushed out the first word that popped into his mouth. “Computers?” “Och, no,” Cala chuckled. “We’re just now havin’ lines for telephones brought through the town. Though, we’ve recently got one of those machines in the office, and it’s been a great help,” she said, underscoring the word ‘great’ with sarcasm. Jack couldn’t help but turn again to the back window. He pulled his bag even tighter to him. Nothing was going to stop him. Nothing. Absentmindedly, he added, “They do have a way of making life easier.” He turned his gaze back to the front. “I don’t know about that,” Cala replied. “’Tis sure, one thing I can tell you. After a few hours of tryin’ to get that bugger to work, I had somethin’ with a little more meat to be offerin’ up in the confessional.” Cala broke into a laugh, but Jack couldn’t share it. All he could think about was whether insanity ran through his family, and whether he’d have time to get it all done before they measured him for a padded cell. The heavy aroma of burning peat moved through the tall, brick building with ease. Not even the narrow stairway leading up to the bedrooms posed a problem to the rising scent. Jack wasn’t so lucky. Navigating the small hallway wasn’t quite as easy for him. The ceiling was far too low and the steps only held half his foot. Yet, the reward for the steep climb was well worth the effort when at last he looked down into the glowing, aged face of his aunt, Kaite. There she sat, stretched out in bed, her small frame near lost in the thick mattress. As he moved into the room, Jack could see how the scored lines on her round face were like a well-written page. Clearly, time had left its heavy mark on her. Yet, none of it registered in her rich, cinnamon-colored eyes. Jack drew in a long breath. They were the exact color of his son’s eyes. There was an intensity to them, yet they had a way of gently stepping into your mind and stealing its secrets. “Oh, Jack!” Kaite’s smile inched further across her face each time she said his name, and the warmth of her smile dispelled the grayness of the narrow room. When she stretched out her frail arms, demanding him to enter, Jack quickly moved to sit on the edge of the bed. When he enfolded her tiny frame in his arms, she whispered in his ear,


“’Tis so grand to see ya again, Buachaill.” The way she called him boy in Gaelic and the light scent of her lavender perfume brought a flood of memories of the woman who never looked at him without adding a wink to her smile. When Jack pulled back, she again offered a wink and a smile as her welcome. Although the smile seemed easy enough, the wink looked a little stiff. Still, he felt privileged to receive such precious welcome gifts. “Yeah, it’s been a long time,” he said around his smile. When Jack captured her small hands in his large ones, Kaite narrowed her eyes and lined a false scowl at him. “Och, ’twas far too long a time for a Donegal nay to be comin’ home.” He felt another smile slide out. It was easier to do in her presence. She returned his smile as she added, “’Tis so grand that ya’re here now to finally complete the circle.” Kaite lifted her eyes over Jack’s shoulder to Cala. He didn’t think it was possible, but the old woman’s smile widened even further. “And with Calatin home, the Samhain will be far more wonderful because of it,” Kaite sighed heavily. “’Tis truly a blessin’ that has nay happened in over eight hundred years.” Cala stepped to the bed and brushed a kiss on Kaite’s forehead. “I’ll go and fix us some tea. It’ll give you both time to be doin’ some catchin’ up.” Kaite nodded. “Don’t be too long. I don’t get to be a seein’ yar face as much as I’d like.” “You see it more than this nephew of yours, so look at him for a while,” Cala answered with a chuckle as she stepped out into the hall. After the door closed, Kaite’s gnarled hand came up to cup Jack’s chin while her eyes searched his face. “Yar hair is lighter than in the pictures ya sent,” she said with narrowed eyes. When they opened, a sheen of unshed tears glistened in them. “Aye, but yar eyes are just like yar father’s, they are, so dark and clear; I can almost see inside yar soul.” Jack heard the clog in her voice as she looked into his eyes. When the lines in her brow shifted, Jack dropped his gaze to the floral afghan tucked tightly around his aunt’s short legs. He didn’t want her seeing his ugly secrets. “Ya loved him with yar whole heart, didn’t ya?” Kaite offered no preamble to her question, yet Jack knew exactly what she meant.


Ya’ve been a good boy. Now ’tis the sound of yar voice that I’m needin’. After a gentle squeeze of his hand. “Gaelic. “Love isn’t worth a damn if it’s nay complete.” “In Gaelic or English?” Jack teased. “Was my Gaelic so awful you couldn’t read my letters all those years?” “Och. she exhaled a long. she looked into his face.” Her head bobbed in agreement.” Dropping her gaze to their joined hands.He used a soft sigh as a crutch to help get his answer out. slow breath. writin’ to me regular like. Kaite didn’t miss a beat as she slapped it right back at him. of course. nay. It lives for all eternity.” 17 .” “’Tis good. “Yes.” Kaite answered “’Tis a fact I loved every single one of them. “Now tell me what ya’ve been doin’ since ya were here last?” Jack fired out a quick chuckle.

she thought how different Jack was from those first letters Kaite so eagerly shared. Bracing herself for the weight. Still. She couldn’t help but smile at his tainted Gaelic. Outside Kaite’s bedroom. the curse in Cala’s heart wiped her smile away. Cala smiled remembering how. but when he said the name ‘Rebecca’. so Cala gladly took down her words. she hoisted the tray from the table and made her way up the stairs. it had become impossible for Kaite to reply. and Cala could easily understand how that pain drove him into Rebecca’s arms. Cala stopped and listened to the timbre of Jack’s voice seeping under the door. Then came the year he graduated from college and that same month came his parents’ death in that awful car accident. As time went on. She listened with a smile plastered on her face. Cala wrinkled her nose. he set his sights on an architectural degree. his weekly letters vividly described his plans to change the world. back then. Jack filled his letters with a passion for his chosen life’s work. Jack had decided that designing buildings would be a far more lucrative career than changing the world. Her blood boiled as 18 . Cala paused and stared out into the near space of the kitchen. Cala had welcomed the opportunity to read Jack’s letters to Kaite. Jack’s ambitions as well as Kaite’s eyesight both became bridled with age. his choices were perfect. There was no mistaking the guilt she saw in his eyes.Chapter 2 As Cala piled lean cuts of roast beef onto thick slices of homemade bread. A woman not having love for a man she beds is one thing. She blinked herself back to her task and ran a careful glance over the silver tray. His letters were now laced with loneliness. In that same year. but to deny her own child. From that time on. as he approached college. So. It was a bit more than usually served for tea. with a clear understanding of their nuances. was the worst of women. but someone had to help put meat on Jack’s skeletal frame. The family could help. It screamed of the devastation to his soul. his heavy American accent overrunning the soft words of her language. His words had been filled with such joy and life that you could almost feel it vibrating in every stroke of the pen. He had to forgive before the healing could begin. By his second year in college.

cheerfully announcing. his smile quickly changed to concern. Their visit progressed and the family photo albums were soon trotted out. Cala’s heart squeezed as the room’s shadows added more depth to his hollowed cheeks and definition to the dark circles beneath his eyes. and Ellen’s put a shine on every piece of furniture. along with stories of the tragedies and heroics of the clan. sputtering slurp. letting her gaze travel around the room.she waited for Jack to set a pause in the conversation. The lad doesn’t look like these tiny thin’s would be doin’ him much good. “Ya might not know this. Cala held her breath as Kaite’s weakened muscles sent the amber liquid up the sides of the white porcelain cup. she saw questions marking his face.” Kaite said around the cookie she’d stuffed into her mouth. “Tirnageata’s land is the soul of our family. Kaite finally pressed the cup to her lips with a long. but this house is its heart. but with the clink of china against china. There was no doubt he needed more than what a few sandwiches could offer. “Yes.” she said. “Tea’s served. taking the cup of tea Cala offered. For now. He needed what the family could share. she offered only a small nod. Jack stood up and cleared a few books off Kaite’s bedside table. “Three hundred years of Donegal history has been captured in this house. The hours passed quickly.” Kaite said as she slid a small cookie from the tray. but she knew she’d eventually have to answer those questions. “And when I pass. she shoved back her anger and pushed the door wide. and her tales completely captivated Jack. then turned to Jack and said. Kaite held the floor for hours.” “Good. The custom of mixing cool air with the hot liquid allowed Kaite to swallow quickly and take control of the conversation again.” Kaite gave a quick nod to Cala. but would he accept it? “Has Michael cleaned out the cottage?” Kaite asked. and me favorite biscuits. The unconventional sound was an accepted ritual in Ireland.” “Good. Cala watched Jack’s lips quiver with a reigned-in laugh.” She added an impish grin to her waggling gray eyebrows. but the cottage is where yar parents spent their weddin’ night. Cala will keep the traditions alive.” Kaite’s glance moved slowly to Cala’s face.” As Cala handed a cup of tea to Jack. “I’m glad ya’ve added a few sandwiches. When the moment came. She prayed he’d be ready to understand it. and the gray skies 19 .

he pushed himself so as not to lag behind. The night will be a long one. “Ya’ve made me very happy. Cala will show ya the way down the path to the cottage. I know I shouldn’t have stayed so long but. where tiny slivers of glinting sunlight dotted the wet brick. she made those stories come alive. get some rest. “Now. The winding walkway forced them through a thick cluster of moisture-laden trees. if I know my clan. damn. “I hope I didn’t tire her out. When she took off at a rather quick pace. 20 . but exhaustion was now playing over Kaite’s face. “Seeing you again is so wonderful.” Jack felt his stomach clinch. The hours he’d spent sitting. she added. she loves you. She reached her hand out to his. After a little rest. Jack smiled at her as he stood up. but I’d like to unpack.” Cala said. you know. “You’ve made Kaite very happy. How do you justify selfishness to people like Kaite and Tim? Jack eased a breath in and out as he shoved the thought back. She sure knows a lot about the family. “But ya needn’t worry about tirin’ Kaite. Concentrating on keeping up with her and the conversation.slowly melted away.” Kaite released his hand and stretched out her arms. inviting Jack to move inside their circle.” Shaking her head slowly. “I hope you don’t mind. Jack refused Cala’s offer to carry his bag as they shuffled out the back door.” “Good. had stiffened the muscles in his leg.” he said. as well as the cool.” Once down the stairs. making his steps slightly off balance. “She said something about visitors and a long night?” he questioned. lighting the narrow path. “It’s important to know our heritage. we’ll have the supper and wait for the visitors to be comin’ by. damp air. giving her the opportunity she needed to rest. then pulled back. Jack didn’t bother avoiding the water. “Aye. I only hope we do the same for ya. so she’d not miss one minute with you. He was grateful that the uneven brick path helped cover his awkward gait. The light floral scent of her lavender perfume wrapped around him. taking a wide step over a small puddle.” Jack leaned down and pressed a small kiss on her weathered cheek.” Cala clucked her tongue.” Kaite said. but she could return only a weak grin. ’Tis what makes us who we are today.

” Jack smiled and rummaged through his memory until he found what he was looking for. She pointed to the wooden door across the room 21 . Over eight hundred years since all the Donegals were in Tirnageata for a Samhain celebration. She and Shamus would’ve made wonderful parents. Just as his callous words replayed in his mind. Cala pushed against it. the pity of it. “One with so much love to give and blessed with only a husband. “This place is terrific. did she?” “Oh. “Neighbors and family have made plans to be meetin’ you. “We do a little more than hand out candy and wear costumes like your American children.” Jack had become so desensitized to his lashing tongue that he rarely heard his own words. your tradition grew from our roots. no matter the how of it.” “Samhain.” “Sometimes that is the blessing. Cala chuckled. So. a cluster of overstuffed furniture swallowed up what little space there was in the room. There.“Aye. right?” Jack asked. Cala’s silence had him ticking back through their conversation to find out why she’d sent him a small scowl. The stone fireplace took up what was left in it. but nay. stood the small thatched cottage. “Kaite never had any children of her own. in the center of a tight clearing. he wasn’t sure whether it was the shadows of the oak grove gently caressing the building’s white body. or the way the swirl of smoke from the chimney scratched the pale blue afternoon sky. Kaite wouldn’t miss a moment of the gatherin’. The small breeze that followed them inside set the flames dancing like excited children. that’s your Halloween. giving the place an approving nod. Even now. but he half expected Hansel and Gretel to come charging out the roughly hewed door.” “Won’t that be too much for her?” “You heard what she said. “’Tis a beautiful cottage.” she said. and Kaite so wants to show you off. with a small shake of her head. they were never blessed with children. but aye.” Cala said. He remembered seeing it as a child and thinking it was something out of a fairy tale. the walkway opened up. Inside. When they stepped up to the hatched door.” Cala sent a lining smile down the path.” Jack’s appraisal of the cottage had Cala looking around the room.

Jack shuffled into the bedroom and carefully lifted the silver urn out of his bag. He dropped into the nearest chair. He turned back to her.” Cala didn’t wait for the conversation to stagnate before she moved to the door. His feet would hang off the end. and now for giving up your bed. but before the smile found its way to her lips.” “I use the cottage whenever I come for a visit. “Och.” Jack’s leg screamed again. her gaze locked with his. He’d use up too much of the precious time he had left to get things done.” On his way to put his suitcase in the bedroom. Jack dropped the suitcase inside the bedroom door and gave the room a quick glance. and Cala’s deduction was right. “You can put your valise in the other room.and added. He sighed at the sight of his old friend and the memory of the long nights they’d spent in each other’s company. “Friends or foes are always welcomed into our homes. “Though I must be a tellin’ you. but this time he didn’t have the stamina to deny it. “I rather like the excuse to be close to her at this time. Jack hardly had time to pull himself out of the chair before she was standing in the open doorway. no. It wouldn’t do to rekindle their acquaintance. it disappeared into a line of concern. He tenderly placed it 22 . The bed was small.” After Cala closed the door. but I can truly vouch for its comfort. “Glad I’m a friend. She matched his smile. “Och. “Hospitality is a Celtic law. Jack passed a small table with a bottle of whiskey and a few glasses sitting on it.” she acknowledged. The bed will be a mite small for you.” he said mixed through a chuckle. “Sounds like you’re familiar with this place.” He moved the smile he was thinking about to his face. He caught up to her with just enough time to extend his hand in appreciation.” She released his hand but increased the soft smile that played on her mouth. and gave in to the pain before he willed it to stop. “I hope I didn’t put you out. Kaite has a cot that fits nicely into her spare room. “I’m in your debt for the taxi service. a foe would be sleepin’ with the animals.” he said. trying to make the way he rubbed his knee look casual. You’re family.” Cala’s eyes smiled.” As Cala’s long fingers easily circled his wide hand. you’re much more than that. The warmth in her eyes matched the feel of her skin and the depth of her smile.

he made his way to the bathroom. he had just enough energy to wrap a towel around his waist and hobble off to bed. 23 . probably added when indoor plumbing made its debut in the village. When the warm water splashed down on him. he ran a grazing finger over the metal container.” he whispered. Picking up a small tote bag. Stretched out over the covers. “Well son. he ran a single finger over the swell of the small container. before his eyes drifted closed. there wasn’t much in Ireland bigger than he was. After a slight adjustment. he thought a shower might ease the tightness in his leg. he felt the burn of unshed tears in his eyes. jet lag hit hard. we’re here. He didn’t need an architectural eye to see that the room was an afterthought. Since he had a few hours before supper.on the nightstand next to his bed. He slipped out of his clothes and into the narrow shower stall. Cala was right. By the time he turned off the taps. While staring at it. He turned his gaze away.

Jack put on his best smile and replied. Tall and rugged. It’s important. they shifted their line into place. “Maybe it’s their way of trying to keep families together and traditions alive. As the tempo of the music 24 . ’Tis actin’ like was a pilgrimage they’re makin’ to some holy shrine of the Almighty. No more then twelve or thirteen years of age. he kept his slicing remark tucked behind his teeth. Like soldiers. Michael was still an asshole. they were dressed in knees length black dresses with the Donegal plaid draped over their shoulders knee length black dresses with a splash of Donegal plaid draped over their shoulders. Everyone greeted Jack with heartfelt warmth.Chapter 3 No sooner had Cala put away the last dried dish than the first guest appeared at Kaite’s front door. the room exploded with the rhythm of clicking heels and tapping toes. There was no mistaking. The last time they met. the furniture was pushed aside and the rug rolled up. This wasn’t an appropriate place to get into a pissing contest with the man. four girls moved into the center of the room. When the wail of pipes joined in. with their backs straight and arms tightly pinned to their sides. As the music played. His handshake was brief and his words were curt. It wasn’t long before the first mellow breaths of a concertina lifted above the steady hum of conversation. dark lines. Jack beat the crap out of him. The girls performed their pointed-toe. The tension cracked through the air like a broken power line. Though Jack wondered how the match up would turn out this time. Within fifteen minutes. along with the roll of a skin drum. especially when the families are so far apart.” Michael snorted his answer over his shoulder as he nudged his way into a nearby gathering of men. Within seconds.” “Aye. For the next hour or so. Donegal or not. Instead. The high-pitched tones of a tin whistle joined in. that is. Suddenly. her parlor was bulging with neighbors and kin. As the evening wore on. they waited for the exact moment.” he said. Jack felt Michael’s speculative eyes following him wherever he went. the whiskey and beer flowed freely. “Many the Irish in the States keep makin’ the trip back to Ireland. head-high kicks and twirls with great precision. while cutting a hard look down the sharp line of his nose. everyone except Michael Donegal. Michael’s fair features held hard.

25 . With their feet tapping and their eyes locked on some vision deep in their minds. the intensity in their eyes warned that something great was about to happen. they wore no clan colors to distract from the monochromatic look. “’Tis ne’er done outside the village. the crowd sent out ear-shattering whoops and piercing whistles as the couples moved gracefully about the floor. the girls curtsied in unison to the crowd and walked off the floor. By then. Silence fell on the audience until. However. “I’ve never seen anything like that!” “’Twas the dance of The Bronach. It quickly grew into a reverberating round of applause peppered with undiluted shouts of approval. The crowd’s applause followed the girls until the sound of the music grew. as they looked out to the audience. As the notes dictated. When the song ebbed. the spectators broke out in thunderous applause. When the last solo performance was completed. Instead. and their landing sent a vibration rippling across the floor. Their grace and agility was unlike any Jack had ever seen. but this time the tempo was bolder. The male dancers waited as the female dancers paired up with them.increased. on a single thunderous crack of heels and in the same breath. Their performance held Jack spellbound. Then. The male dancers didn’t wait for the exact beat. they followed the beat breath for breath. from the back of the room. the young men jumped in semi-unison. Jack turned to Kaite and yelled above the accolades while adding his own applause to the group. there came a single clap. At that instant. straining her voice above the applause. nor did they keep their lines tight. so did the speed of their feet. Jack couldn’t help but notice that not a one looked winded from such a physical exhibition. a matching number of young men were out on the makeshift dance floor. The mastery of their intricate steps and gravity-defying leaps held the crowd in awed silence. The exactitude of their steps led them into a tight line. the music and the dancers stopped.” Kaite answered. each performer took a turn at center stage while the others stood in loose lines waiting for their time. Dressed in black shirts and pants. The music filled the crowded room.” she added.

which was directed solely to her. It wasn’t until Michael stepped to a group of men that Cala turned her gaze to Jack. Another beer was slammed into Jack’s hand.” Pushing slowly to his feet. laughter and family. the music started again. and a surge of anger ripped through Jack. It was by far the most extravagant gift he’d ever received.” Jack answered with a shake of his head. He looked 26 .” Jack widened his eyes and stared down at his aunt’s upturned face. “The Irish in my blood stopped before it got to my feet. “Do you dance.“They’re absolutely amazing. This wasn’t a night to get lost inside a bottle. black liquid and vowed to nurse this one. Michael and Cala twirled by. By the time the tune ended. Jack’s heart thundered in his head. I can do that. turning back to the talented entertainers. “’Twas done in yar honor. he followed her to a small spot on the dance floor.” Kaite added a wink to her smile. Hate! Hate! Each beat screamed out the single word. Where had the rage come from? His instantaneous explosion was beyond livid. yet for that split second all he wanted to do was kill Michael. ’tis a tradition that’ll ne’er be broken. but why? He hardly knew the woman. This time. “Sure. “Only a Donegal is given permission to learn it.” Jack replied. He looked at the thick. Just then. Jack?” “No. He watched Michael walk Cala to the edge of the dance floor. then?” The pain in his leg throbbed with every beat of his heart. Jack’s anger was nearly gone. Kaite smiled and nodded in response to the group’s curtsy. She slid into the chair next to him and asked. Was she reading his mind? His anger quickly dissipated until he was complete baffled. but he couldn’t refuse her. He was humbled by the honor they’d paid him. the tune was something everyone could dance to. As the applause tempered. He pushed the small smile from his face and sent a hard glare at the hand Michael had around Cala’s waist.” “Would you like to stand and sway to the music. It was a night of music. She quickly returned her attention to Jack. Cala’s gaze lifted over Michael’s shoulder and stabbed directly into Jack’s eyes. a familiar feeling swept through him. As his arm circled her waist.

and kept his argument to himself.” Jack answered.” He was prepared to do some serious debating on the subject. Walkin’ around cryin’ mea culpa. “You wrote nothin’ you need be concerned with. “I hadn’t really noticed. I’ve more strength than I first believed. “We’ve had two great tragedies of Ireland: the famine and the English.” The music stopped and he followed her off the dance floor. “Hope nothing I wrote embarrassed you.down into Cala’s upturned face. mea culpa doesn’t solve the problem. finding his voice.” He gave out a small snort. sarcastically. I’m thinkin’ ’tisn’t near as romantic dyin’ of starvation as dyin’ in battle. Cala angled her head and looked directly into his eyes. One bein’.” 27 .” “Either case. “Tragedies help us grow stronger as a nation and as individuals when we face them head on.” “Confession?” “Aye. I’ve been readin’ your letters and taking down Kaite’s dictation for years now. So.” Jack answered with a slight curl of his lip. Jack recognized something deep in her eyes. “You said you lost your family. “I’ve a confession to make. After a few more beats of the music. that sorta thing?” Jack asked. The songwriters take their choice. they choose the war to be writin’ about.” “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. “Aye. turned to him and smiled wide. Did you learn from that tragedy?” “I’ve learned a thin’ or two. I don’t think death is something to sing about. She stopped. Instead.” Jack eased out his inhaled breath. “Did you ever notice how most of the words to our waltzes are about someone dyin’ in a war?” Jack would’ve missed her question if it hadn’t been for the cool breeze he felt brush between them when she stepped back. So I’m knowin’ more about you than I first let on. facin’ up to life makes us strong. it was only the beer although it was quite stronger than what they sold in the States. he smiled. but the tender look in her eyes expressed things that he didn’t want to acknowledge. He turned his eyes to the crowd and shoved the thought out of his mind. Hell. turned his gaze back to the crowd. Cala said.

but for three years. Jack’s heart would overflow with joy. my son. In fact. the ache in Jack’s heart consumed him. Conner drifted through the dreams. A scream tore from his throat as blinding rage took over. and Jack found himself out in a frosty night with the scent of burning peat swirling around him. Before he crawled into bed.” Jack whispered as an ache stabbed his heart. He’d repeatedly cursed the god that had again left his arms and his world empty.The night turned out to be as long as Kaite had promised. the gray predawn sky stretched into the dark rolling hills. He looked down and saw his long fingers splayed over her swollen belly. The scent of night clung to her flaxen hair. The blue-gray arms of sleep rushed him into fragmented scenes of his past. “Oiche mhaith. The last six months. deleting the line between the earth’s dark plain and the sky above. he brushed his fingers over the small metal urn sitting on the bedside table. He sat bathed in the warmth of the large fire with his arms wrapped around a woman. Jack’s eyes drifted closed. he’d race to Jack but stop short. they had no fear of reprisals from the English King. he knew she was his wife. Overhead. the scattered images congealed. the tot would dissolve into a foggy mist. but had been conjoined by love and now the child growing inside her. Washed in contentment and love. Jack said good night to his son that same way. 28 . The instant his arms wrapped around his child. Each time. It hadn’t always been that way. They were two hearts. my son.” Within seconds of sliding between the cold sheets. Soon it would be morning and they basked in the afterglow of the Samhain celebration. “Oiche mhaith. mixed through scenes from Kaite’s stories. Every night since Conner’s birth. and he brushed a kiss to her temple. Standing with his small arms outstretched. but the love they shared was far deeper. the pain and emptiness had become unbearable. two souls. As he rushed to his son. there wasn’t much of it left when Jack returned to the cottage. Each time. As the night wore on. the child would call out to Jack. Jack’s gaze lingered on the glinting metal while his gut twisted. Together they watched the flickering flames chew across the log.

a single scream ripped open the night. the hard peat ground quaked beneath his feet. but she fought against them. and the line of her jaw was sharp. fighting against the need for air. but his fear turned it into a prayer. They raced to the horizon. The words kept repeating in his mind.” As the outline of the trees swelled before his eyes. NO HARM?! NO HARM?! His mind repeatedly screamed the question. He fell to his knees trying to scoop her up into his arms. their bare feet slamming against the hard ground while death cries chased after them. no harm. “I will not leave you!” He tried tugging her to her feet. He tightened his arms around her as his eyes drifted close.Three years of peace. “Ya must get away!” she shrieked. He pumped his legs harder but suddenly her hand jerked from his. “Ya must save the old ways. No harm would come to his family on his watch. but she stiffened in his arms. No harm. Protectively shielding her as she rocked with labored breaths. The animal’s long strides were quickly chewing up the ground between them. he stared into her tear-filled gaze.until the end of time. as she calmly repeated.” “No!” He bellowed over the blood curdling screams that surrounded them. Our love is yar 29 . “RUN!” he roared down into her upturned face. Without slowing the pace. A huge black stallion raced across the turf. grabbing for her hand. and she stumbled to the ground. They’d have time to reach the grove. The king’s sealed decree commanded no harm to come to Clan Donegal. Our love is yar power. “Ya’re the only one who can stop the vile from spreadin’. I give me power and all me love to ya. No harm. “Run to the grove! The oaks will protect us!” he shouted. Her eyes turned cold and lifeless. His body vibrated with the thunder. Suddenly. Then he felt her cold hand on his arm. pulling her with him. Ya’re the only one who can stop the evil from spreading. Her gaze was steady. On the animal’s back was a rider who hacked and slashed his sword at all in his path. “Please. He leapt to his feet.. he looked over his shoulder. The ground was littered with the limbs and bodies the devil left in his wake..

” he whispered into the earth. He pulled her into his arms. As quickly as it began. he jumped out of bed and suddenly shook violently as the cold floor soaked into his bare feet. When 30 . one love. The black void carried him off before he finished the vow. “ANNA!” Deaf to any sound but the wail of his heart. Then every muscle exploded at once. Save the clan. and brushed a kiss over her ear as he whispered. and the cold night air attacked his sweat-covered body.” she ordered through the tight line of her lips. Together they said. “ANNA!” His cries overlaid every sound. a scolding hot slice tore into his back.” the fiend hissed through curled lips. For a moment. every scream. “Until the end of. his feet refused to move. sending him into a series of violent shudders. He angled his gaze over his shoulder and watched the sword’s cold steel slowly chew through his skin. Both must go on forever. He was powerless to do anything but her bidding. It tugged him back and he fell to his knees. “All the pagan Donegals will die this night. me love. Once free. Jack fell forward. He turned to the rider. “Go. I give ya all me love and me power. He kicked at the perspiration soaked blanket and untangled his legs. He surrendered to her will and suddenly his body quaked violently.” Invisible hands held him in place.power. The acrid smell of decaying leaves swirled in his head as the metallic taste of his blood oozed into his mouth.” Before he could seal their vow with his kiss. he didn’t hear the horse plowing up the ground as it raced toward him. Jack bolted upright in the bed. but he felt a power pulsating within him. The man’s eyes burned with hatred as he gave the blade a final push. He jerked the long blade from his victim’s back and glared down at him. “One heart. screaming out the name that was branded on his heart. one soul. Suddenly. she bolted up onto her feet and raced back to the carnage that was raining down upon their clan. He charged across the open field. it ended. Blood scorched a burning path through his veins and the intense heat flashed inside his brain. “until the end of time.” He pulled back and looked into her eyes. Save the old ways. It ripped open muscle and cracked bone as it ate its way into his body. but the tug in her voice was all he heard.

” 31 . it stepped back and melted into the shadows. something moved in the grove. It hit his stomach like a red-hot poker. Within seconds. I’ve got one helluva imagination. His gaze strayed up to the slate sky and out to the horizon. “Dammit. The animal angled its head straight at the cottage as if it knew Jack was there. Jack narrowed his eyes against the dim light and stared with fixed fascination as an ebony shape congealed and formed into a huge stallion. horse. “Maybe I’m a foe after all. Once the burn eased. he convulsed again. he and his old friend moved to the window. The cottage was dark with not even a sliver of moonlight striking into the window. and drove his bare arms into it. How in the hell could that be? At least 100 yards separated them. The limited light gave an alien definition to the landscape. but still the horse stared motionless at the cottage. As the wind stirred shadows through the trees.” Jack said to the empty room as he raked his fingers through his hair. Buried deep inside. he grabbed the denim jacket draped over the chair. Jack released a bent up breath.they ebbed. This was the time the earth stopped to take a breath between day and night. Jack slowly shook his head and huffed out. The instant the light grazed the animal’s back.” Knowing it was a horse didn’t keep his skin from crawling. neither Jack nor the horse moved until the blush of morning yawned into the grove and touched the treetops. “Shit. and instantly. This time it was more a residue of the dream’s terror than the cold. You scared the shit out of me. the glinting moonlight cutting through the window stabbed the bottle of whisky. As the seconds pushed forward. he had a large swallow curling its way down his throat. He moved into the parlor.

“I’ve been up for quite a while. he expected to see a startled look sparking in her eyes.” Cala touched her fingers to the pot before she poured a cup for herself. The reality of the dream was so intense that a faint odor of burning peat still coated his nostrils.” she said. Damn. Earlier. fear still gripped his gut. As she carried the cup to the table.” Jack answered over his cup. Tea wasn’t going to dilute the feeling. “Yeah. but it wouldn’t be good for the family to find him curled around a bottle. she stirred the brew. “Don’t bother with me. He lifted his head to the sound of Cala’s footsteps pattering down the wooden stairs. Then again.” she said. he’d thought about spending a few more hours with his liquid friend. turning to the stove. a knowing smile was in place. He looked into the teacup and watched the tiny ripples mimic his jittery nerves. Once she was settled into the chair across from him. I’m just a little more used to being lulled to sleep by the screaming sirens in the city than I am to neighing horses in the country. Both sounds promised a glorious new day. The hot cup of tea he held between his hands wasn’t doing much for the cold that chilled his blood. stopping her cup just a hair away from her mouth. the bed’s fine. the dream sure as hell wouldn’t leave.Chapter 4 Jack sat rolled shouldered and silent at Kaite’s kitchen table. When her gaze came up to him. an Irish woman’s voice in the morning was like the coo of a dove at dawn.” “Horses?” she asked. a black stallion was out by the grove early this morning. “No. A big fellow. she seemed too preoccupied with pulling her mass of ebony hair into a clip to even know he was there. “I’ll get your breakfast ready. nothing would. but the sound of her sleep-clogged voice was sexy. She took a tin down from the shelf and measured the tealeaves directly into steaming water. As she moved into the room. no bridle on him that I could see from my window. “You’re up early enough. Even if he could get that damned horse out of his mind.” 32 . Instead. What’s more. This tea will do me till lunch. “Was it the strangeness of the bed that drove you out so early?” she asked. she smiled.

for a while there. “Kaite’s a little under the weather this mornin’. especially ones like you described. “Sure.” Jack felt like a kid again when he heard the word castle. Jack decided there were secrets behind them. drawing out the word while she pinpointed her gaze on Jack’s face. there’s a mac that might fit. “A big black fella.” “Well. she rolled out of her chair and walked to the sink. “Are you stuck on that word?” Jack chuckled. If you like.” After another swallow. many or not.” Cala instructed. “There’s not many around.” She didn’t smile at his joke.” Jack chuckled into his own cup. I thought I was a foe and you’d sent me to sleep with the animals. Is it Kaite’s?” Cala dropped her gaze to the half-empty cup. “What did you say the horse looked like. again?” Jack wasn’t sure but he thought her eyes flicked over his face as if desperately searching for a special answer.” he said. She spoke to the stream of water as she rinsed out her cup. So I told her I’d take you on a tour of the village and Donegal Castle. “She owns no horses. A rush of familiarity flooded through him as he looked down at her hands.Jack took a deep swallow of his black tea. “I’ll just be gettin’ my walkin’ shoes on and we’ll be on our way. hangin’ on the pegs. “There’s the ancient stones nearby you might take a fancy to be seein’. once more turning her face up to his. while pointing to a line of raincoats and jackets hanging on wooden pegs near the back door. the tour sounds great. Cala asked. He thought of refusing the offer and heading out on his own. Cala blinked and finished sipping her tea.” Cala replied with a wide smile as she dried her hands. 33 . After the liquid found its way down his throat. “Well. one came out of the grove. but the words came out his mouth before he realized what he was saying.” “Grand. “I remember that place. if that’s to your likin’?” she asked. We could stop by the pub for lunch. as he brought his empty cup to the sink. Instead. “Does Kaite own horses?” “Horses?” Cala asked. Her eyes were clear but not so clear as that he could read her mind. Cala took the cup from his hands and finished the job. When he reached into the running water to rinse it. he asked.

” Jack’s eyes drifted to the parlor.“Is it rain or mist this time?” Jack chuckled. The taste of envy filled Jack’s mouth. He didn’t want to be infected by the disease of loneliness Jack carried. There was no doubt in his mind that she was what Michael most wanted to guard. “A storm. family and love.” she replied in a correcting tone. For others. “Michael’s raincoat is a little sparse in the shoulders for you but it’ll have to do. life was just meant to be like that. and within minutes. Just then.” Cala said while tying her shoes. As he slid it over his head. In their place were 34 .” Jack didn’t realize he’d voiced his thoughts aloud until Cala answered. the things every man wants. Land. like Jack.” Jack took down a dusty gray raincoat and sized it against himself. or the weather.” Cala hitched her thumb over her shoulder to the small window above the sink. isn’t up to par. “Those clouds will be here by noon. as he moved to the cluster of coats and woolen shawls lying limply against the roughplastered wall. the rain stopped. For some people. No wonder Michael held back when he shook Jack’s hand. Michael had it all. He works Kaite’s land with his own and often spends a night or two when she. It was a close fit. but he couldn’t wash away the bitter residue. a Norman Rockwell setting wasn’t always in the cards. home. Michael only wanted to protect what was his. He envisioned a homey picture of Michael. while outside an angry storm rattled the windows. “Does Michael live near here?” “The next farm over. the black clouds were racing out to the sea. A spattering of large raindrops had chased Jack and Cala up the rocky hillside to the ruins of Donegal Castle. the captured aroma of pipe tobacco triggered Michael’s hard face in Jack’s mind. Kaite and Cala all happily sharing the warmth of company and hearth. well. Jack’s gaze fell down to Cala’s upturned face. He ran his tongue over his teeth. Their angry look says they’ve no plans to be kissin’ your face. They stood huddled beneath an overhang of stones while Cala made a blanket prediction that the rain would keep them up there well past lunch. “Michael’s a lucky man. “He’s devoted to the land and family.

under the cover of darkness. He couldn’t bear to hear anymore.glorious streams of brilliant sunlight stretching down to the ground. a contingent of Henry’s men came back to Tirnageata. His mind screamed for her to stop.” The words ‘no harm’ sent a shiver up Jack’s spine. Jack stepped into the center of what appeared to be the outline of a large room. Then. It was only two words. “He’d left Ireland. She cherished it right down to the smallest pebble. This land was more than mere stone and dirt to her. he gave all inside three days to renounce their pagan faith and embrace the one true religion. the sixteen-year-old daughter of Chief Donegal bravely rode into the English encampment. where the great King Conchobhair first gave his blessin’ to the family. but suddenly a hot searing pain sliced into his back and his body turned cold. The tenderness she showed was like a mother to her child. “’Twas the great hall. Leading them was the devil’s spawn himself. Lord Harrison.” Jack turned his back to Cala. Jack watched as Cala picked up a pebble and cradled it in the hollow of her hand. Then in 1156. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and take away the pain he heard in her voice. but three years later. Nothing more than two words that she chose to put an emphasis on her tale. He drove his balled fists into the pockets of the raincoat and struggled to keep control. Her words turned soft while she gently stroked the small stone. what remained was still very impressive.” “Waiting their death?” “Aye. Some say the king extracted his price from the girl in the way only a man with no honor would. the English King Henry II went about Ireland murderin’ off those that worshiped the old ways. It was that night that the king gave his sealed decree that no harm would come to the Donegals. or all would die. Patches of tall dried grass and half-buried rocks gave the floor an uneven line. under the guise of friendship. with the Pope’s blessin’. His Holiness’ Catholic Church. Although there were sections of its boundary missing. on the second night. When he arrived at Donegal castle. He willed his heart to slow down. ’twas that year that. ’twas the place where many Donegals huddled together awaitin’ their death. but the words wouldn’t 35 . His fingers numbed and his knees liquefied while his lungs tightened. “What part of the castle was this?” Jack asked while turning in place. She petitioned the king for the lives of her family.

That night was Samhain. and all Donegals were there to share in the celebration. even if he knew the ending. We celebrated the gifts it gave us with ceremonies handed down from before time began. “You’ve no cause to be makin’ a face like the word is somethin’ to be spit on. Yet. The breeze moved through the branches as if their arms opened to him. though. He understood Cala’s tenderness. the edges were roughly hacked away without care or thought to the shape or design. like a Druid priest buried deep in his regal robe. Terror pumped through him while the ancient screams rang out in his ears. All but one massive stone. It wasn’t just a dream.” Jack followed but kept watch where he stepped. 36 . looked as if they couldn’t take another century standing there. Our people lived off the earth and worshiped it. At its feet was a long flat stone. they opened up their homes and shared their food. The giant stones. “The gatherin’ place of the Donegals. Every rock and pebble had witnessed the carnage. “’Tis where our ancestors celebrated the cycles of life. Jack’s heart gripped in his chest. It stood erect and regal. Then. Neither spoke as they stared out over the valley where an irregular circle of large stones stood. woman and child. His heart raced and a trickle of sweat followed his backbone. It felt like he was walking in a graveyard. “Like good Celts.come out. and silently cried out with the memory. When nightfall came. as dawn broke. “This a pagan place?” Jack’s mouth curled around the word. Her words confirmed every detail. the murderin’ English foxes repaid the kindness by slaughterin’ every man. they offered the weary travelers warm beds. He needed her to finish the story.” With her last words.” “And sacrifices?” Jack turned to her with his question. He lifted his gaze to the grove’s line. but how in the hell could he know the story. His body swayed. stepping down the crag covered hillside. how could he feel it? He raked his fingers through his hair and pushed the enigmatic thoughts aside. “What’s down there?” he asked with a nudge of his chin. Cala scrunched up her face replicating Jack’s. its surface worn to a glass-like finish by time and weather.” Cala answered. listing and reclining in every direction.

but they believed such was right. and also for the way they defended us against the evils of that time. it’s not easy getting past that point. “Strange to think our ancestors were a part of that. The answers they sought then are no different than now. The old ones were the keepers of knowledge and the laws.There was sadness in Cala’s eyes. The worshipers came because of a promise to find answers to their petitions. and they shared this with the world. Cala’s gaze stayed lined on the giant as she spoke. Centuries of petitions offered to an invisible god have gone unanswered. they knew the magic of healing with herbs.” Jack said. So.” The conviction in her voice was blended with a hint of pain. every court in Europe had Irish physician in attendance. “You mean that’s what that place was?” “Our ancestors celebrated life. for you to pick the one memory of those great people. without rememberin’ the whole of what they believed is more a sin than what they did. grazing a finger over the smooth surface of the altar.” Jack smiled at the stalwart tone in her voice. and the stones—where they offered their prayers to their invisible god. but Jack saw no shame for their ancestral sinners.” Jack stared at the broken circle of stones. “So much of what we know was based on that one fact. but all that happened was they were pawns to perpetuate their Druid masters’ dominion over this valley. “Most families feel they owe their ancestors a lot.” Jack volleyed. We were given the gifts as keepers and the responsibility for the continuation of mankind. the earth. This was their church—the sky. “They did what they believed had to be done to help the continuation of life. More importantly. ’twas indeed a dark time. “Aye.” Cala quickly snapped back. “They were more than the sacrifices they did here and the prayers they offered to the mighty oak. “We owe our ancestors so much more for the special gifts they passed on.” 37 . too. “But the Druids did sacrifice lives?” Cala’s spine locked and the hard line of her jaw sharpened. As time went on.” Jack widened his eyes and turned in place. There was no mistaking that the size and eternal power of these half-buried megaliths could still easily hold the attention of their gods. Religion has never fulfilled its promises.

Ours knew ways to be bringin’ evil upon the world. encircled by a rough stockade fence. There was silence.” The air in Jack’s lungs congealed. turning away from the subject and directing his attention back to the stones. but aye. Was Conner’s death some sort of an ancient penance for their part in pagan sacrifices? Or was it nothing more than the tainted miasmatic blood that killed his child? Jack turned to the sky. How do you hold on to the silken thread of sanity when your mind snaps? You don’t.” “Yeah. “are there any celebrations held down here now?” “Well. Either way. he surmised.” Jack thought of what his ancestors had passed down to the world and to him. a wind kicked up. Its raspy voice brushed past Jack’s ear. The righteousness of their souls helped them choose the latter. His gaze darted over the faces of the stones. that’s all he needed. His mind spiraled on the word. and he couldn’t help but think of how the pagans needed to believe in their magic 38 . Mud huts here and there. but not really. and soon there’d be an end to the unclean bloodline.” The sun crawled behind a cloud. draping the staggering stones in dark gray robes. He turned to the sleepy little village and its amalgamated cluster of brick buildings. Jack thought of what this village would’ve looked like back in the dark time. almost looking for answers. “So. Then Yule follows close behind and about four others throughout the year to be bringin’ us full circle on the wheel of life. “Iralan. but in his mind. Strange how time had altered the scene. “Maybe we should hit the pub for some lunch?” he asked without taking his gaze from the town. “Aye. the Halloween party?” Cala chuckled before answering. and for that we must be forever grateful to them. At that exact moment. of course. but nothing was there. “A touch different. Samhain. He stretched his gaze to the sky. They also knew how to keep it away.” Cala answered with a nod of her head.“Some have more reasons to be grateful than others.” Jack said. Jack turned quickly toward the whisper. As they walked through the streets of the town’s center. Conner was dead. was his only answer. the one word knelled out. The heavy shadows gave animation to the uneven surfaces of their weathered faces. A small stone church huddled close to the willows. Just a little more time.

” Jack lowered his head and drove his legs with a single purpose in mind. and how the church today symbolically recreates that practice at every mass. and who worships the right way. when really the evil spirit is us.of the sacrifice. we still need that hocuspocus to chase away the evil spirit. Christ. that you laugh to yourself?” Cala asked as she walked by his side. there’ve been more people murdered in the name of religion than any other reason. What makes it worse. There’s far more than just us on this plain.” He let his head lob back and another laugh exploded.” “That’s crap. He needed a drink. Cala shot out a hard tsk. maybe mankind will start putting his mind to better use. “Are ya sharin’ a joke with the fairies. We can’t break with our mindset no matter how many centuries pass. We’re here because of some fluke accident. like finding cures for shit that takes children’s lives. When we realize that. and a hollow laugh burst out of Jack’s throat. Jack let his laugh have full reign and answered through it. “That’s egotistical thinkin’. 39 . “I can’t help but laugh. All that time passed and we’re no better than we were back then. The thought caught. We still fight over whose god is the most powerful.

Jack couldn’t help but let his gaze travel around the room. Jack smiled. He wasn’t sure if years of smoke had fermented the wood to a rich ebony patina or if black was its natural color. Huddled together in the center of the room were four long tables with just enough space around the cluster for a waitress to get by. It was something no artist could capture on film or canvas. This was for the locals. Dressed in an oversized woolen sweater. the shy little girl steadily sucked her thumb while she kept an expert eye on Jack. Above the mantle hung a portrait of Michael Collins. This was the real reason Irishmen came back from all corners of the world. A glossy wood paneling covered the walls. short. When their eyes met. 40 . In either case. with barely enough room for Cala and Jack to stand up to it without their shoulders brushing. right down to his white apron. but within seconds.. stocky man who looked all the part of a bartender. The only difference between the two places was this one had a long black wooden bar pressed deep in a far corner. the dark-headed child buried her face in her mother’s side. It wasn’t massive because the room couldn’t hold it up. it made an excellent backdrop for the sepia photographs sprinkled over its smooth surface. Across from two undressed windows was a fireplace. Some of the names engraved on the plaques were the same ones he’d been introduced to the night before.. Immediately. Jack moved closer to inspect the trophies and bric-a-brac that lined the shelf. Jack turned to the window. but it did have an acceptable size mantle. Down at the far end of the tables sat two women and a toddler of no more than four. The name O’Brien’s Pub was painted on the mirror behind him and from the round of Cala’s introductions. he couldn’t help but wink at her. There was no disputing the fact that this was a place of honor. the little girl was once again practicing her flirting skills. What they made was a pilgrimage to the Almighty. A perfect spot for the large man to look out onto the Ireland for which he’d fought and died. the bartender was O’Brien himself. Behind the bar stood a ruddy-faced. The breathtaking view slammed into his sightline.the almighty Ireland. Michael was right.Chapter 5 The pub wasn’t much larger than the cottage Jack was staying in.

if that’s where this conversation is headin’. “No. giving himself a moment to regroup for the next round of questions. and some she avoided altogether. “I’m not married. Cala was cautious with her answers. “Good. “That’s because O’Brien uses drippin’s. “Aye.” Cala nodded with approval. would he want to? His mind didn’t hesitate with a yes. when Jack took his first bite. Jack silently nodded his daoibh to the man. Jack quickly pulled in his chin and gave out a strong. “Good stuff. the stale scent of beer rose up from the floor. but it adds greatly to the flavor. the wonderful flavor had him contentedly sighing.” She added a delicate laugh to the end of her sentence. the paper was soaked through with grease. As the conversation stretched on. if he had enough time to figure her out.” She swallowed and started breaking off another as she added. It wasn’t uncommon for entire families to meet in a pub. Jack was more than mildly curious about the woman. Throughout their lunch. Yet. drippings.At the near end of the tables sat an older man.” “Drippin’s?” Jack repeated the word exactly as Cala had said it. bacon’s best. A true puzzle that had him asking himself. As Jack waited for his lunch. his questions entered areas of a more personal nature. Still.” Jack took a long pull on his beer.” “Oh. Her mixture of strength and softness was an enigma. It was a spot to celebrate the gift of making it through one more day of life. The weathered-face man acknowledged Jack’s hello with a toothless smile and a tip of his flat cap before returning his attention to the pint of dark beer that sat before him. This wasn’t just a place for drinking. 41 . which loosened up both his thoughts and his tongue. It mingled with the delicious aroma of frying fish to make his stomach growl.” Jack said around the food in his mouth. their conversation never took more than a slight break. “I gathered that when I didn’t see a ring on your finger. with vinegar ‘s an Englishman’s way of eatin’ it. He’d put down one beer and then another. “Would you be likin’ malt vinegar on your fish and chips?” Cala asked as she handed him a newspaper-wrapped lunch.” Before they got to their seats.” Cala broke off a piece of the flaky white fish and popped it into her mouth. “It smells the place up to high heaven.

he needed to make his counterpoint before he cut away. Kaite stepped into her place.” “Had?” “Yes. he felt the beginnings of a buzz. between the swallows of his beer. thinking his comment was an excellent joke. Are we so 42 . I won’t have to worry about leaving any part of myself behind. “I had a brother. She lowered her face and her voice.” The conversation edged to the territory Jack felt was strictly offlimits.” she said.” Jack signaled for more beer. “My father and Kaite’s husband were chums. God doesn’t want us to have a free ride through it. but ’tis close enough to be the truth. “The church has spoon-fed the world that superstitious pabulum just like the Druids did our ancestors. but I always thought his eyes were much older than any I’d ever seen. We’re here to learn and be a part of the day by day livin’ of it.“Yesterday. The day I laid my mother into the ground.” she said.” “Sure. sending her gaze over Jack’s shoulder and out the windows. “That’s the abridged version. “The drink is only a way of coverin’ up the pain.” Cala answered. pointing to the empty bottle. “Life isn’t meant to be easy to take. Do you have any other family?” Cala’s eyes flicked over Jack’s face before answering.” “Was your brother younger or older?” Jack asked. Even with the heavy lunch he’d just finished. every time you go into that place. “How old were you when you came to live with Kaite?” Though Cala had filled in most of the blanks.” “And now you work in Oughtergard.” The series of lines that had collected on Cala’s forehead smoothed out before she added to his statement.” Cala’s eyes narrowed. “You know. before taking a slow sip of her beer. “you leave a little of yourself behind. and it does one helluva job at making life easier to take. Cala wasn’t smiling. accordin’ to the birth register. you mentioned you’d lost both your parents.” “Well then. when I pass over into the dark plain.” Her full lips disappeared and her face tightened. but Cala refused. “Eighteen. However. now will I?” Jack laughed. “Younger. “We’re supposed to take what he gives us and make the best of our lives. Still. he passed on between my da and my mother. Jack found he still had a strange need to fill in the last remaining spaces.

He set the bottle down and stared hard into her eyes.” Cala snapped. He smugly smiled. “Our ancestors believed that before we came down to earth. Jack Wolfe. She surprised him when she replied. starvation. “Each life is a fulfillment of the contract we made before we’re reborn.” Jack struggled to keep the rising lump from closing up his throat. war. “He did that. I just can’t seem to find someone else to blame. ’Tis wrong from all directions. or the death of a child?” He watched as her mind clicked through her answer.” “Contract?” Jack shot out the one-word question and followed it with another. sometimes ‘tis for others. you’re blamin’ yourself for what passed on to your child.” Her eyes locked onto his.arrogant that we think some father-like figure sits up there and really gives a shit about us? There’s no eternal plan and no one to blame for our failures but ourselves. Jack could see that she felt she’d finally got to the point she wanted to make. the volume of his voice. Their narrow slits signaled she wasn’t about to bend under his speech. He had her pinned into a corner. or your son could’ve been here to teach you how to love. She knew the learning curve on those things didn’t fit into her equation of coming back. What’s worse.” Cala’s face turned calm. “Okay. Sometimes the contract is for ourselves. “Help me to what? Learn how it feels to have your heart torn to shreds when your child dies in your arms?” “That could be one lesson. you are.” 43 . “Are you sitting there telling me that Conner made a contract to die?” “His death could’ve been to help you.” Jack let the caustic smirk that pushed onto his face linger awhile before he answered. let’s say that we’re recycled. and with it. Maybe I should chalk it up to God and his eternal plan?” “There’s no need to be placin’ the blame a’tall. You spout off at the church when ’tis yourself that you’re really angry at. She raised her voice a notch as she put her own definition to his blanket statement. “Help me?” Jack’s irritation lifted. “You’re a very angry man. Why in the hell would we want to experience sickness. “Funny.” “Reincarnation?” Jack laughed the word out. we’d made a decision of what experiences we wanted to learn durin’ our next pass at life.

he’d be a beggin’ me to put an end to his misery. And losing any of them didn’t come close to the loss of one child. 44 . “Yeah right. and so do I. my da was dyin’ of the cancer. my brother. One day he did as Da asked. but she still had the blanket of family and their love around her to help ease the pain of her grief. and I’ll never be forgettin’ it. Liam secretly carried around the shame of helpin’ our da. Liam.” She dropped her hand from his face. I think you know well enough. she lost her brother. Jack slammed the bottle down on the table. “Drinkin’ is just another way of killin’ yourself. Seeing the truth in her eyes made him drop it back to the table. when it was my turn to be helpin’ him. “And what if that wasn’t his reason? What if. because of my rotten. ’tis slower than jumpin’ off the cliffs. True. The tears in her eyes swelled but refused to fall. “Och. “You see.” she whispered. I know the look. Jack shook his head. “God makes no mistakes. That’s when I first saw that look. black liquid. but she continued. and not the kind that eats the body quickly. Jack’s gaze shot up to her face.” Cala stopped his hand from lifting to order more beer. “For a month after Da’s death. Cala reached up and turned his face back to hers. wasn’t near as strong as I was. At night.” Suddenly. “I beg to differ. but it’ll do a fine job just the same. What’s the use in even talking to you about it? Let’s have another round.” Her hands strangled the bottle she held. The shock of her knowing what was in his mind pumped rage through his veins.” The minute O’Brien brought another bottle of beer.” Jack snorted.The tight lines around Cala’s mouth softened.” he lied. It was hard to refuse his pleas to add more of the morphine pills to his nightly dose.” he said through his teeth. However. No. infested blood. Jack snatched it up and opened his throat to the bitter. but not her gaze. but I’d no idea what its meanin’ was. I’ve seen it before. Sure. darkness spread out from her eyes. his so-called contract wasn’t fulfilled? What if he was suppose to be born perfect?” Cala lined him a hard glare. They lowered for a split second then came back to Jack’s face as she continued. father and mother. “Then just maybe he accomplished what he set out to do. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. When he finished. his slowly chewed every bite it took.” “You don’t know shit. and there was a hitch in her voice.

Lost in her thoughts. it wasn’t entirely his fault. Och. but Cala had insisted that a man as loving and giving as Jack would see how special he was.” Cala answered. in a way. and too self-absorbed. When you murder your own child. that one is. Kaite’s knowing smile beamed from across the room. “You haven’t even come close.” Inside the house. Kaite had warned Cala that he’d be a hard nut to crack. So you see. I knew then what was written on his face and I’ve blamed myself for not seein’ it sooner. and I truly understand the mighty pain you carry inside your heart. Cala cringed. So. but the truth of it was. Jack Wolfe. that Kaite had insisted that the family was the only answer.” she had her doubts. oblivious to the black puddles she stomped right through. raking her fingers through her hair. She prayed that Jack would welcome their love. The air carried the salty taste of the sea over her lips.” “Damn him. I know what I’m speakin’ of.” Jack curled inside himself and dropped his gaze to the empty bottle. When a cold breeze trickled down her neck. help show him the way back. She bit her bottom lip and managed to keep further words tucked behind her teeth. and what’s worse. she slipped out of her wet shoes and padded up the wooden staircase to Kaite’s bedroom. She wished she could put the blame on him. “You’ve got that same pain-filled look.” she muttered to herself. she was halfway down the cobblestone street before realizing she was even outside. ’twas a grand one indeed. 45 . then we’ll compare notes about pain. “I’ll never forget that pain in his eyes before.” She released a slow breath. As Cala pushed open the door.” Cala said. “Och. but the way he spit out the word “pagan. she slowed her steps and pulled the ends of her collar together. but she refused to release Jack’s gaze.” Kaite said in a sarcastic tone. “I can see ya’ve had a grand day. “Please. Cala’s own pride had caused her to act like a shrew. His voice softened to a gritty whisper as his vocal cords strained against his reply. Pride and fear. that’s for sure. I’ll never forget the horror in those same beautiful eyes after. putting a sharp tsk at the end of her sentence.” Cala’s gaze bore into Jack. Cala sighed. “’Tis beyond bein’ thick headed. She lifted her gaze to the rolling gray clouds and said.“Then one day I found my brother hangin’ in the barn.

was hopin’ there’d be some other way. There was no other choice but to risk his loathing in order to save his life. “Ya know the answer is love. night had taken complete control of the skies. Heavy gray clouds were chased out to sea by the thick blanket of night. and he needs the gift or he’ll die. “But I don’t want to be the one. don’t you?” Cala’s head moved slowly up and down in reply. Kaite was weak. my mind’s muddled. It made idiotic ideas shine with false brilliance and wisdom. Ya’ve made a pledge to be the one to carry on when I’ve departed into the dark plain. The scored lines were deeper. For love is the only thin’ that will be liftin’ his pain. She only had a few hours to find another solution before she’d lose him forever.” Cala looked into the sadness of Kaite’s face. pulling her spine straight. with only a frost-covered moon to break up its blackness. She pinched the bridge of her nose while saying.” Kaite put a heavy weight on the word ‘me. then to me. Now we both know there’s only one who can show him the way to forgiveness.” She shifted her eyes to study what was left of the day. and ’tis you who must guide him back. “I. First to yar heart. “’Tis no ‘buts’ to this. too weak for what had to be done. “I’ve been thinkin’ too much. “Ya also understand the importance of what must be done. but ’tis yar position in the family. She hated the night. There’s no other who can do it. Traffic had declined enough for Jack to walk down the middle of the street. “Ya mustn’t waste time thinkin’.” Kaite shifted in bed.” Kaite sighed heavily. “His soul must be released from its pain before he can be opened to the gift. but.’ Cala exhaled as she rolled back into the chair.” Kaite broke in sharply.” Kaite’s voice softened as she added. too. the tight lines around her mouth softened.” “Aye. “Ya know which one must come first now. By then.” Cala shuffled to the rocker near the window and curled into it. but when their eyes met. “I know that. A 46 . and hollow dark circles rimmed her eyes.Kaite’s smile stayed in place as she said. It was her responsibility anyway to bring an end to the eight hundred years of hatred and to bring Jack’s soul back from the depths of Hell. It took Jack a few more beers before he considered leaving the pub. Ya’ve known the tradition of it.” Cala’s voice trailed off. darlin’. ’Tis time to be listenin’. It was Cala’s turn.

Finally. the down drafting light slammed against Michael’s blond head. leaving only scratches of sounds behind. Much of the town had quieted down for the night. He scooped up the ball and raced across the line. The second the group finished the victory lap. or the rattling in his heart. Rounding the bend.” Jack shouted back. This was no soccer match. Jack listened. More shouts and cheers came up. and from what Jack could see. Jack’s feet were on autopilot. a sharp cheer came blaring from beyond the buildings. The small line of spectators understood either version. His eyes locked with Jack’s.” 47 . not a sound came from crowd or players until a sharp whistle at last signaled a goal had been scored. The celebrating players hugged one another and jumped for joy while the spectators’ voices combined into one as they shouted.good thing too. adding their own shouts to those of the players on the field. For a split second. When another followed. Their intensity pricked at Jack’s skin. Irish football was a masochistic sport. It was nothing like the clatter in the city. “Michael! Michael!” Out on the field. Near the far corner of the field was a ball of men. “But that must have been the highlight. It looked like a free-for-all. As they passed the fence. If you could hear peace in a heart. he saw the soccer field lit up and a game in progress. Michael went through a gauntlet of backslapping congratulations to a spot a few feet from Jack. the game had no rules. This time. Then players and crowd alike exploded in a unison cheer. either. “Only your goal. No one wore helmets or padding. “Did ya see the game?” Michael asked Jack over cheers. They carried him around the field for a victory lap. because in his condition he needed more space than a sidewalk could offer. the ball was kicked free of the tangle of legs and a single player broke from the pack. but instantly Michael’s glaring gaze softened. this would be it. a group of players hoisted the man high on their shoulders. As he worked his way to the edge of town. Jack made his way through a small standing crowd to a spot against the low wooden fence. Jack was close enough to recognize a mixture of both Gaelic and English. their arms locked together and their legs slashing violently at a ball that was lost in a sea of legs.

Michael laughed. “Good call.” 48 .” Jack answered with a shrug of his shoulders. “Do you know much about Irish football?” he asked.” While drying off the back of his neck. it’s played by lunatics. He’d have bet his last dollar this guy was up to something. With the bag hooked over his shoulder. but Jack wasn’t buying it. “I guess I could stand one more. Why he thought of Michael as the enemy. before drawing a towel over his face. What better way of learning about your enemy than pouring a couple of drinks down the guy’s throat and listening to what comes out.Michael bent and took a towel from his bag. he turned back to Jack and asked. Either way.” “Would ya be likin’ to join us for a celebration pint?” Jack knew he’d already had more than his quota for the night. was another thing. Sometimes you get the truth. “I was planning on heading back to the cottage. “Where ya off to?” Jack couldn’t help but be surprised at this new and improved Michael. for that’s about the likes of it. you learn more than you knew before the booze.” He pulled on his jacket and collected his bag of equipment. “I’m not off to anywhere. Sometimes it’s pure bullshit. “From what I can see. but Michael’s new attitude peaked Jack’s curiosity.

and Cala was his girl. It wasn’t long before the rattle of voices changed into song. Guess his cousin hadn’t forgotten what happened when they were kids.” What Michael left unsaid was written in his eyes.Chapter 6 The team filed into the pub and immediately the shouts went up to O’Brien to start the pints coming.” Michael’s eyes hardened and his jaw jutted out. 49 . I’m imaginin’. Jack fought back a smile. “Yes. For an instant. He believed the woman was his. So any man. and Jack would play along to find out what the hell that could be. Michael’s face pulled inward with his answer. Jack thought. Michael’s congeniality was obviously strained. We farmers are a breed that plants both our fields and our feet. and Jack found himself being pulled into the chorus. Michael was throwing down beers and wax philosophy like he was Jack’s new best friend. “You ever been to the States?” Jack asked. Conner’s eyes looked back at him. “I guess knowing where you want to be is great. This was his town. “Whadda ya think of our little village and the people?” Michael asked during a pause between songs. there was something else that Jack caught before Michael dropped his gaze to his beer. Here it comes. I guess I do. There was something much more than just a territorial glare behind that cordial smile he was using. “Very nice. He wouldn’t leave something so perfect. Throughout the evening. there was hatred in his eyes that looked to have been there a long time. No.” There was no doubting the sneering curl of Michael’s upper lip when he said the word ‘Chicago. If they let their Irish loose. Jack wondered who’d come out with bragging rights this time. Jack’s heart ached.” “Not much like Chicago. Now. Jack?” Jack turned his gaze to his glass and stared down into the bitter brew. Jack wondered if she knew it. Michael wanted something. What Michael really wanted to know was what Jack thought about Cala. either.’ It’s a wonder there weren’t piss stains all around Cala from Michael marking his territory. “Nay. his land. or cousin. “Do ya know where ya want to be. turning his eyes to the two men making their way out the door. the man could barely stand to be in the same room with Jack.” he answered through a heavy whisper. best know that. Less than twenty-four hours ago. Still.

He wiped his sleeve across his mouth to take the thick creamy foam off his lips.” he replied before taking the last of the beer down his throat. the hairs lifted on Jack’s neck. even if he was a relative. He was a sneaky bastard.” “So then ya’re here to stay?” Michael lined his blue eyes right into Jack’s with his question. Something told him he needed to put as much space as possible between them.“Where might that be. “A man who is. even right down to the act. His evaluation of Michael was still dead on.” “I could give ya a lift. Michael straightened from the bar and drained his glass.” The look in Michael’s eyes sent a ripple of apprehension through Jack. “Are ya in need of clear head for findin’ a solution to a problem or just to sleep on?” “Dreamland is what this brain needs.” Jack lied as he followed Michael out the door. No. Jack unrolled from the bar and studied Michael’s face. and they don’t take kindly to excuses.” He raked his long fingers through his blond hair. “Ireland. Michael smiled smugly as he hoisted his mug. “No thanks. stopping it just inches from his mouth. When the victory party waned. Michael would gladly offer whatever assistance was needed to get the job done. may I ask?” If Jack told Michael the truth. Even alcohol couldn’t dilute the power in those blue eyes. “I better be gettin’ home. “I guess I’ll be heading back myself.” Michael’s eyes narrowed. then said. but he was damned sure that would come.” Jack said with an expressive shrug of his shoulders. if need be. Death and birth were something we did alone. he doubted Michael’s reaction would be like Cala’s. 50 . As the night rolled on. but the tangle of strands refused to be tamed. Jack lifted his gaze and his glass. Jack lost count of the number of pints he’d had. and Jack didn’t need some asshole cheering him on when he took that final step. the walk might clear my head. “Why do I see the look of a man not satisfied with the outcome of his decision?” “Who can say what satisfied is. Me cows will soon be demandin’ to be milked. As taillights danced down the bumpy road. He hadn’t learned much about why the change in Michael.

Nothing was going to stop him. Jack slowly shook his head. There had to be something in that bullshit that would give Jack a clue to Michael’s true beliefs. It was a fair exchange in his book. All he had to do now was make sure Cala didn’t act on her speculation. but the chill had helped to move him quickly through the town. but there’s no way they’d watch him twentyfour/seven. Shit. A chuckle bubbled out of his chest. Inanimate objects had the appearance of life. and keep his overactive imagination in check before he’s locked away in a padded cell. The hazy moonlight cast a dim wash over a low rolling fog. the unbalanced sound of his footsteps followed him while distorted silhouettes played an eerie game of peek-a-boo between the buildings and the darkened doorways. Jack pulled the hood of his raincoat over his head and tucked it in as far as he could. Near the center of the open field. When he did that.Sandwiched between a hazy moon sitting high in the sky and a sloppy fog crawling low along the ground was a freezing drizzle. and nothing Cala could say would make him want to change that bargain. The sharp stab confirmed that the choice he’d made was the right one. Michael had dished out loads of worthless conversation but Jack wanted to filter through it. he’d accepted death’s offer. Cala kept breaking into his thoughts. a silvery field opened up before him. wearing one of those white jackets with extremely long sleeves. but it lost most of its strength when it came out his mouth. she could do all the assuming she wanted. who wouldn’t trade a single moment of pain against the life sentence of anguish he faced. Well. Though the stinging rain pricked his face like needles. it was perfect weather to clear some of the alcohol from his brain. he felt her searching his soul. Unless she decides to warn the police. Jack wasn’t sure when the rain stopped. The illusive shadows didn’t scare him. It won’t help. That. What’s worse. a small shape huddled just above the 51 . Rocks seemed to shift above the ground and trees were no longer anchored to the earth. The anesthetizing effects of the alcohol had begun to wear off and the pain awoke in his leg. You lose your fear when you’ve gone joyriding with the devil. When the buildings parted. Even though Jack tried centering his mind on Michael. when she looked at him. She hardly knew him. As he continued making his way through the sleeping town. and yet her conjecture hit the nail on the head.

“I only wanted to give you some money for food…Goddammit! That kid’s fast!” Jack added to the night. oversized clothes hanging on a bone-thin frame. “What the hell. Moonlight glinted in the boy’s eyes. The tangled strands were matted flat against the small head. Jack thought it was a dog. The boy tilted his head up to Jack. but he immediately changed his mind. When Jack stepped off the gravel road. you eating the vegetables right out of the ground?” Jack questioned while trying to decipher exactly what else was wrong with this picture. At first. now upright. he found the boy had already disappeared. The quick snaps matched the quickening beat of his heart. When he lifted his gaze. After a final visual search over the blue-gray field. frost-covered grass crackled under his shoes. The child. As he closed in on the boy. Jack asked. As Jack neared. He shook his head with exasperation. “Maith tu ta. moonlight caught the small features of the boy’s face. you all right?” Jack yelled. The darkness scalded the haunting image of the boy’s eyes in Jack’s mind. Apparently. Jack quickly lowered his gaze as he reached for his wallet. Stepping up slowly. The unsteady shape refused to hold together as it uncurled from the ground. Without lifting his head. Just like the rest of the world. Jack walked back to the road. didn’t answer. who show their pretty 52 . the crisp. Even in the limited light.undulating fog. the shadows swallowed up the boy’s eyes. The night masked the color of the boy’s hair. His gaze darted out over the field as far as the darkness would allow. This town really wasn’t as different as he thought. Jack spun in place. “Hey.” Jack repeated in Gaelic. leaving only dark sockets. Jack pulled to a quick stop. “Do you speak English?” The boy silently nodded. in which lie something far more chilling than starvation or fear. he counted out what equaled to about fifty dollars.” Jack called out to the empty night. Around the boy’s mouth. don’t run off. A kid? “Hey. it had its day people. so Jack wasn’t sure if it was naturally dark or just dirty. a strange dark tint obscured the shape of his lips. When the image lengthened. the boy looked half starved with his hollowed cheek and ragged. this youngster had been that way for quite some time. He couldn’t have been more than six or seven.

He buried his fists deep inside his pockets and rolled his shoulders against the biting weather. and even with the drink in him. As thick spiraling clouds clawed at the moon. The muck could suck a man under in a blink and not belch the body up ’til spring. “Two-thirty? The pub’s been locked up long ago. all night if she had to. his nerves became jittery again. The experience. I hope he didn’t get turned around and end up down in the bog. Just as she did. they’d rush off to their warm little beds. Jack’s head was down and his shoulders rolled. she’d wait at the edge of the grove. totally ignoring the pain of all the lost souls of the night. had cleared the alcohol from his brain. she became claustrophobic in the darkness and stepped out into the open. “Jack?” 53 . she looked up at the moon again. there wouldn’t be much night left to wait. He sucked in a long draw of the cold damp air. Jack shot his gaze up to the charcoal sky. The cold night air made Cala shiver. She felt as if she was turning inside out. Judging by the size of the moon. Cala immediately recanted that thought. the sound of uneven steps echoed down the path. he’s a smart one. His spirit looked broken. She had to give her way one more try. He wasn’t sure if anything could. The salty taste didn’t eradicate the toxic feeling that chilled his blood.” Anxiously. The tangled web of bare branches that hung overhead scarred its face. How could she have been so heartless and leave him at the pub? She massaged her temples as she thought about going out to search for him. he’s a grown man. She needed to make amends. She took a steadying breath and watched as the silhouette slowly moved forward.” The thought of something happening to him immediately brought pangs of guilt.” she whispered to the night wind as it moved through the trees. “Nay. No one should face that much pain alone. No. Stopping in the darkness. coupled with his burning disgust. Shifting away from the tree. she angled her head up to the moon. So. “God. She pressed the button on her watch and the amber light flashed back at her. and she needed to make them tonight. his spirit looked destroyed. but leaving wasn’t an option. Within seconds. Then when night came. she stepped in and out of the grove’s shadow as she paced the small spot on the stone path. Her heart wrenched and she whispered.faces to the world.

“Forget it. making a break for the darkened house.” When he stopped.” At the cottage door. It didn’t matter what. “No. shooting her a hard look just before shuffling his way down the remainder of the path. There was a clear path for her words. He drew out the name until it was nothing more than one continuous hiss. searching his face. After a pause. Afraid? Take a drink. Infected by Jack’s shock. but the strength of his strides pulled her along. “I’ve only come to apologize to you. “I. Once alongside him. he snapped a wide-eyed gaze at Cala. the tiny sound of tinkling glass drew her gaze up from the floor. She quickly screwed her courage back in place and raced after him. She dug her heels into the stone. I needed to speak to you. Moonlight touched his curled upper lip as he pried her fingers off his arm. She knew the sound and understood how alcohol had become his simple solution to everything. Jack.” Jack’s cautious breathing was obvious. “I’ll not have another day come up on the shameful way I spoke to you. Dying inside? Take another drink. Cala held onto his arm until the coiled tension in his muscles eased and the rhythm of his rapid breathing slowed to match her own.” “Is it Kaite?” he asked. ah. “What the hell are you doing out here at this hour?” She swallowed hard to move the lump in her throat aside.” he said. The physical and emotional pain he lived with 54 . Shocked into a catatonic state. Cala slammed her hand over her thundering heart. Jack lifted the latch and stepped into the dark house with Cala on his heels. “Something wrong?” “Yes. Cala raced after him and latched onto his arm.“Jesus Christ!” Jack pulled to a screeching halt. she understood how alcohol had become his loyal friend. Cala could do nothing as she watched him melt into the shadows. she brought her steps into cadence with his and said. she stopped tailgating him and stood waiting for the light to fill the small room. Once over the threshold.” she said. the whites of Jack’s eyes filled their sockets. but they still hitched. Then her mind opened up. ’tis not Kaite. Instead. Even in the limited light.

The scratch and spark of a match echoed in the silence. even the part she’d only told a priest. where does it touch you?” she asked. Yet.” Indigo shadows stood around her.had drained him. “I thought you came here to apologize. and a small flame was already clawing into the kindling. Without turning.” She watched the flames as she tried to find the right words. Within seconds. “I had no right to say what I did. waiting to hear her answer. and a small beam wedged itself into the darkness but it didn’t have enough strength to fill the room. Jack snapped out his reply. He turned to her. or to crawl out of bed. “Just like I’ve a right to my opinion. he scooped up his drink. His command sent Cala into the arms of an overstuffed chair. There was no doubt it took every ounce of his strength just to open his eyes in the morning.” While the ringing of her words still danced around the room. “Sit.” he ordered. Once more. She watched as he struggled down to the cold hearth. she set her course into her own agonizing memories. Cala tried to hold back her words. not start with that shit all over again. the room was bathed in a golden light. Her mouth opened and what was in her mind came tumbling out. but the emotional pain was far worse. The shuffling sound of his feet introduced the click of the lamp. “You’re tryin’ desperately to escape this baneful plain. “When you know the truth. His glaring bloodshot eyes told her his pain had become too much for him to bear. Physically. Pain clawed at his face as he lowered himself onto 55 . the clink of glass on glass shattered the heavy silence. Lines scored his face. What do you say to convince a man that death isn’t the solution? How do you reach into the darkened depths of his grief and pull him back? She had no other option but to share all her pain with him. blocking out the last rays of moonlight. putting as much apology into her voice as she could. On his way to the couch. Jack’s shoulders came up in an exaggerated shrug just before he lifted up from the floor. she closed the door behind her. you did. but they refused to stay put. he was in constant pain. “Yes.” she said. Drawing in a ragged breath.” Jack snapped his gaze back to the fire. all she offered for a reply was a troubled sigh.

it eases the pain. So. she had no choice but to tell him. I turned to what I thought would be my salvation.” Tears were now tumbling down her cheeks. Then she took out her heavy guns.” she said. “That made my guilt worse. She took in a deep breath and swallowed hard in hopes of diluting her nausea. I’ve visited the scene of my brother’s death nearly every night of my life and I’ve carried the evil here for years. Because where there’s truth. and though my decision was wrong. the evil cannot survive. I had just sat down and just put my feet under the table when she hit me right between the eyes. The memory of the putrid smell of urine and hay filled her senses. kissed my forehead and left. I wasn’t the one who gave those extra pills to my da. I looked for ways to drive that pain from my heart and the sin from my soul. She said usin’ drugs to take the pain away would only lead to the dark plain. At least I thought I was so clever. “You see. So. Once his back was braced in one corner. as she searched Jack’s eyes. “Being away at school made it easier for me to keep my secret. She’d met me at a small café on campus with a wide smile. her voice cracked with emotion. she wouldn’t let me leave this plain without knowin’ that I was loved. I sat there for hours repeating Kaite’s words. but I prayed to God someone would. She took a small breath then answered her own question. until Kaite came for a visit. He had to learn forgiveness and now she’d have to show him how. Kaite got up. she wanted me to know that she loved me unconditionally. She kept her gaze locked with his as she spoke. she cleared her throat softly before restarting her sentence. I found my escape in drugs. knowing that they still wouldn’t be enough of a shield to protect her from what she was about to say. tapping her fingers against her chest. I sat there thinkin’ the woman had gone around the bend.” She dropped her eyes from his and concentrated on the oblique pattern weaving through the material of the cushion.the couch.” His head came up in a snap. The light struck his wide eyes and she prayed his condemnation wouldn’t block his ears to the rest of her story. he draped one long leg across most of the sofa’s length. Yet. “When truth touches the heart. Cala moved into the empty space on the couch. when that happened. She gave 56 . When she opened her mouth. Her stomach turned. “No. She drew her knees tightly to her chest. She said she was giving me her blessin’s.

She loved me enough to give me her blessin’s to die. Kaite made that so. I realized I was worth it. Was I worth lovin’? Suddenly.” Cala’s body shook as she choked out. “Jack. I give you my blessin’s. 57 .me her blessin’s.” She covered her face and buried her tears into her hands.

” Cala’s soft words and breath fanned his face. then he stopped his mouth a breath from hers. dying Conner. right.” When she tilted her head back.” Jack chuckled into the fire. “You must believe that Conner is in a place that is surrounded by love. “You’ve got your beliefs. Jack pulled her onto his lap. There wasn’t enough time to wait. I know. “Let’s call it a draw and go to bed?” The answer he saw in her eyes ignited him. “Don’t cry.Chapter 7 Unconsciously. The pain of seeing Conner like that consumed Jack’s heart.” “Truth is the only thin’ to believe in. Jack’s thumb played with her bottom lip. The tenderness shimmered in her eyes and he reached out and touched her cheek. then you know you must go on.” He turned to Cala. they weren’t of the sick. Conner’s smile. He followed the contour of her jaw line with one finger until it reached the point of her chin. Let’s forget them for now. He didn’t want to go on.” he replied. He cradled her head to his chest and whispered. he let his gaze move over her lips. Jack pushed her out of his arms and rolled to his feet.” While the flames clawed the log. So stop that crap. I have mine. images of his son grew stronger. Heaven. His head dipped slowly. his fingers dug into the mantel. if there’s a heaven then this must be Hell. “Don’t start it again.” “Only if you make it one. The flickering amber flames softened the lines of determination raking her brow. On an exhale he whispered. He didn’t wait for her to invite his tongue into her mouth. Then suddenly there wasn’t enough time to breathe. I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. 58 .” The words crippled any other thought he might have had. Conner’s laugh. With a slow breath. they were of his living son. I know. Every fiber in his body screamed the need he suddenly felt. Yet. He didn’t wait to warm her lips to his. As he stood at the hearth.” “Oh yeah. tiny glints of light shimmered in her eyes. “Well. “We’ll only learn the truth when we die. Cala moved to Jack’s side. “If you understand. Jack squeezed his eyes tight. pulling back to see her rising passion.

“Kaite?” he asked. “Love is the only thin’ that will lift your pain. The bitter taste of alcohol washed away the sweetness of her kiss. “What is it?” he asked. He splashed a drink into his glass and watched how his hand shook as he lifted it to his mouth. please hurry. he lifted her mottled hand to his lips.” The word ‘forever’ shocked him back to reality. He untangled himself from her arms and moved to the small table. A thunderous banging and Cala’s voice screaming his name drove Jack out of bed. It was just turning cold. squinting his eyes to keep the sunshine from stabbing into his head. and pulled himself to a sudden stop when he saw the softness on her face.Her fingers curled into his hair and she pulled back slightly and whispered into his mouth. He lunged across the room and fell to his knees at her bedside. He stumbled across the room and jerked the door wide. Yet. but no tomorrows. How could he allow himself to taste the promise of tomorrow? “You better go. He heard Cala’s footsteps and the soft creek of the door before he felt cold night air cut into the warmth of the fire. Carefully. he charged up to the house. He couldn’t bear to see the future in her eyes.” There was no such thing for Jack.” Cala shouted as she raced back down the path. “I’ve loved you since love’s first sigh and I’ll love you forever after.” she softly said to his back. “Yes. The terror in Cala’s eyes was more answer than he wanted to see. There was a yesterday and a today. no forever. Fear pushed a prayer out his mouth before he realized what he was saying. Jack couldn’t turn to her answer. Ignoring the pain in his leg. “Forever. his face turned to the fire. Jack dove into his pants. even as he took the narrow stairs two at a time. She appeared to be wrapped in a comfortable sleep. letting a flood of morning sunlight slap his face.” he snapped out. Terror sent his blood crashing against his brain. Go to her while I get the doctor. and a shiver ripped through 59 . but he was all too familiar with death’s disguise. He pushed the door to Kaite’s room wide. he felt that death was already in the house.

Anyway. he thought. Jack stopped his head from shaking in agitated agreement with his thoughts. that would cut into their finances. With the Bible held tightly in his gnarled hands. and now she. Then again. He came to say slan agat to Kaite. “Sa an ainm…” “In the name of the…” Following the others. he knew good-bye wasn’t the right word to say to someone you’d soon be seeing. one carrying a tall. lit candle. as he thought about it. Of course. Adieu wasn’t Gaelic. “Soon. Old habits die hard. This ritual of celebrating death never did sit well with him. the old priest mumbled more prayers as he shuffled down the narrow aisle to the back of the church. The miles that had separated them in life never hampered the love they shared. soon. they’d say we get only one chance at life. Hell no. his son. but it was a much better choice. Two mismatched altar boys followed close behind. that small piece of information was purposely omitted from the church’s doctrine a long time ago. He knew his heart would mourn. if you asked the church. Soon. and the others he loved.” Standing in the back of the small church. too. as his eyes searched her deathsoftened face. if Cala was right about reincarnation. Now. but he also knew his grief would be temporary. It took the usual six pallbearers to carry the pearl gray 60 . dropping his hand to his side. After finishing the blessing of Kaite’s coffin. was gone. They couldn’t take the chance of people thinking there was more than one go-around for everyone. She was the only one he had left to love. He began repeating the priest’s words. Now the distance would be far too great for anything but memories to bridge the gap. he’d be with her. mumbo-jumbo wasn’t necessary. Although. The scent of burning candles and incense clawed into the memories Jack kept near the surface. There was no stopping the tears that slid down his face and splashed against their joined hands.him. then this hocus-pocus. Jack lifted his fingers to his forehead. “We’ll all be together.” Jack whispered. his eyes would shed his tears. he hadn’t come here for that. Father MacLauren turned to the crowded church and began to offer the same blessing to the congregation. big time. Jack trembled as the priest sprinkled the linen covered coffin with holy water. the other carrying the crucifix. but stopped suddenly.

Michael’s grip tightened on Cala’s shoulders and his wide fingers embedded into the thick wool of her black coat. That’s why he’d chosen to be cremated. He was about to offer Michael the same cordial greeting. so perfect. outlined by a stone wall. because Kaite’s frail body probably weighed less than ninety pounds. her face lifted to his.’ The newly carved name was vivid and crisp. pain and sorrow.’ ‘loving wife. so simple. In a way. As the train of people coiled around the coffin that rested above the freshly dug grave. but there was no mistaking its meaning. All she had to do was marry one of them and the circle would be complete. He followed the slow procession as it wove its way around the building to the graveyard neatly tucked behind the church. as Conner had been. Michael and Cala followed close behind the coffin. but was halted by the pure unadulterated hatred that flashed from Michael’s eyes. Jack stepped into the line. Thanks to Kaite’s legacy. Cala walked with her head low. something was missing. The warning was silent. Cala could easily step into the role of Michael’s wife.’ The name was barely recognizable on the weathered stone at the head of the yawning grave. yet.’ So plain. Jack narrowed his eyes as he searched the marble stone. Why not? She was already the head of the Donegal family. Cala did belong to Michael. What a cold way to be remembered. There were no dates of 61 . Jack had always hated the idea of rotting under ground. ‘Kaitlan Agnes Donegal O’Neil. When she neared Jack. She gave him a small smile through her tearfilled eyes.coffin out of the church. With Michael’s arm protectively draped over her shoulders. Jack studied the head stone. Some markers were ornate Celtic crosses. ‘Shamus Liam O’Neil. and Jack answered with a nod. this property belongs to me. while others were nothing more than a flat piece of stone pushed level with the ground. He’d never seen eyes filled with such a mixture of love. with just a few scratched lines on a rock to mark a life. Jack couldn’t argue with Michael’s silent declaration. Stay clear. The inscription below the names read ‘loving husband. Their assistance had to be more for visual effect. A variety of head stones crowded the consecrated plot of land. The cemetery was small. When the last of the mourners filed out of the church.

So mote it be!” Cala turned to the west and lifted her outstretched arms and eyes to the sky. “Please escort our loving Kaitlan into the dark plain. Something in him told him this wasn’t a place of death to bury life. Jack felt his entire body fill with warmth. Cala stepped forward. 62 .” The tone in Cala’s voice overflowed with love and gentleness. it was a place to celebrate life. Jack glanced at the other stones and again the dates were missing. She cleared her throat and pulled her spine taunt. When Cala put out each tiny flame with a golden candlesnuffer. The euphoric feeling enveloped him so quickly his head became light.birth or death for either Kaite or her husband. May its warm waters comfort you and may its eternal sacred fires create a joyous life anew. Was this an Irish tradition? Or was it only what the people of Tirnageata did? When the priest finished the last of his prayers. a rush of peace pumped through Jack’s veins. “May the gentle breeze over the western sea carry you safely into the dark plain.

“Ya’re Jimmy’s boy. but he knew he’d never be able to eat half of it. The short priest had a large face with thick.” “Indeed. “I wouldn’t be callin’ us hellions. and the priest’s eyes shot to Jack’s face. he continued.” he said with a shake of his head. then?” Cala questioned. showing more teeth at his conclusion.” The priest closed his eyes and sighed heavily.” He opened his eyes and looked around the room. a thin’ or two. 63 . The moment the priest showed a questioning look. “I knew yar father well. He turned to find her holding a plate filled with a variety of foods. “I saw something more than hunger in the boy’s eyes. though we did manage to find a thin’ or two to get into. “Nothin’ tastes as sweet as stolen apples. She pushed it too close to Jack for him to refuse. When they didn’t share the look with Jack. This time there was no music or laughter.” Cala pulled in a quick breath. “Kids today don’t seem to find joy in simple pleasures anymore. I caught a boy digging in a field.Chapter 8 Jack turned through the doorway and made his way across the crowded room to the makeshift bar. bushy white eyebrows that hung low over almond colored eyes. The friends and relatives of Kaite O’Neil once again filled her parlor. there could be no mistakin’ you were the hellions of the village. He took it. there was no doubt he was eating the vegetables right out of the ground. If Kaite hadn’t been the constable’s wife. you did. “The stories Kaite told about the pair of you. From the looks of him. “A few nights back.” Cala said from behind Jack. there’s no mistakin’ that. only the murmuring hum of their personal requiems for his aunt. you both would’ve been locked up for stealin’. indeed. Jack explained.” “Och. Father MacLauren rolled up from his chair and blocked Jack’s path. He held it on her as if waiting for instructions.” Father MacLauren sent her an artificial scowl.” Jack replied. and the darkness around his mouth. “You’ve seen the boy up close.” The priest’s eyes widened as he shot Cala a strange look. “Some might not have the luxury to steal for a rush.” the priest said.

She loved life and everything in it. others to her generosity. their mothers sat around the table chatting. Only a few feet away. put it into the poor box. Each day was a special day and she made sure that those around her became infected with her personal joy. He peeled off about a third and handed the money to the priest. Father MacLauren nodded and took the donation. The jealous night was rushing in quickly to take its turn. The afternoon had moved into evening. “’Tis a fine gesture. Jack glanced around the room. There’s many a family in need now and again. “Take this in case you find the boy’s family. not her death. Cala gave the priest a small nod. As he neared. but he didn’t see Cala anywhere. he met a group of toddlers playing on the kitchen floor. with Kaite’s name quickly tacked on to it. Jack had the excuse he needed to duck outside. When the conversation got around to local sports. Jack wondered whether Cala needed to grieve alone or on a shoulder. They’d come to celebrate Kaite’s life. I’ll be offerin’ yar name up in the mass for yar generosity. 64 . and they planned to stay as long as possible. not even near enough to buy my way into heaven.” As the hours passed. Some attested to her loving heart. Standing under the arbor was a familiar shadow. It’s only money.” The priest didn’t move until Jack added the statement about the poor box. he hadn’t seen her for quite awhile. no one appeared ready to leave. but near all gave testimony to Kaite’s wonderful sense of humor. Every now and again. On his way out the back door.” Jack answered around a mouth full of flaky soda bread. and every eye turned up to him as if he’d invaded enemy territory. With a smile to the women. Jack reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of folded bills. Jack set his empty glass in the sink and stepped out into the yard. a laugh would erupt above the hum of conversation. and don’t you think you’d have fear in your eyes if a giant came upon you in the night.” “No need. All that was left of the sun was a thin irregular line slicing along the horizon. and now the night was pushing in. then smiled at Jack.” Cala said as she moved on to the next group. Everyone had a story to share about Kaite. As he thought about it. If not.“As close as you are to me. their conversation stopped. “Sure.

Cala gazed up to the darkening sky. pushing the tone of his voice even with the breeze that whispered through the trees. “Aye. but when she spoke. he wrapped his arms around her and began briskly running his hands up and down her arms to warm her. Jack drew in the aroma and bathed in the familiar feeling it brought. 65 . Then suddenly his heart began to quiver as dark thoughts encroached on his mind.” Kaite’s warm smile came into Jack’s mind. there were no tears in it.” Cala released a soft sigh. “You’re cold.” Jack answered. “We’ve our memories to get us through the days without her.” “Memories. Jack tenderly covered her hand with his. “I’m sure anywhere she goes. The air was heavily fragranced with the scent of burning turf.” “Aye. Already a few stars were taking their spots for the night. pangs of grief tightened in his chest. Her face lifted to his and his hands slowed. She sighed as he kissed the tips of her fingers. For a moment. stressing the ‘s’ sound. “I’m just takin’ in the beauty of the night. he clasped her hands in his.” Though Jack smiled down into Cala’s face. “What was that ceremony you performed at the grave site?” “’Twas done to ask those in the dark plain to welcome Kaite with open arms. brought them to his lips.” Jack said.” Jack couldn’t deny she was right. “The smoke and talk got to you?” he questioned. “Sometimes they’re not the gift we hoped they’d be. “What time you shared was more than special to her.” A shimmering of tears rimmed the lower lids of Cala’s eyes. Cala’s hand touched his arm and her face turned to his. but then without them we’d have no conscious thought about yesterday and those we’ve loved. and blew his warm breath against her captured fingers.” “I wish I could’ve had a little more time with her. I’m sure going to miss her. straining against the memory of his aunt.He was across the yard before the logical side of his brain finished its debate. When she leaned into him.” Cala tightened her fingers around his arm. she’d be welcomed that way. He couldn’t get away from them fast enough when he asked.” When Cala’s smile strengthened. “She was one terrific lady.

Kaite was everywhere and Cala loved it. her small hands plummeting the dough 66 . “Cala? Cala. should we be puttin’ the cakes away. How was it possible for him to be taken so quickly. The prism design stretched up the white walls to overflow onto the rumcolored cupboard that stood in the corner. he released a guttural rumble that echoed from deep within his throat. I’ll hang around out here for a while. he pushed deeper into the shadows. dark wooden floor. or should we be a leavin’ them for you to do?” The voice from the opened door spiked through Jack’s aroused brain. He turned to the stars in the sky and confirmed the vow. His mouth moved down her slender neck. His mind knew the way down this road and the speed in which they traveled wasn’t fast enough for his body. Cala stepped further into the shaft of light that tumbled out the opened door. moonlight struck her kiss-swollen lips. The soft sound of his name being breathed into his ear drugged his mind and when her nails raked his back. He had to stop this addiction he had to her.” He felt Cala’s body shake as she whispered. taking her sigh into his mouth. When she stepped back. “Aye.” She pulled her hands from under his sweater and drew a long deep breath. leaving a trail of kisses behind.” When she turned. or so deeply? It was like a familiar road. Even though his body didn’t agree with his decision. As her hands slid under his sweater. She stared at him as she said. He slanted his lips onto hers. He dropped his forehead to her shoulder and tried to regulate his breathing. Everything in the place quietly spoke of Kaite. to the scattering of family photos that decorated the walls. hitching his chin in the direction of the house. from the starched white lace curtains that hung over the window. It spread a patterned welcome mat over the scarred.” Jack whispered. “You better answer or they’ll come looking for you. She could still see Kaite standing at the table making bread. Jack watched her walk into the house. the only one that he’d make. Cala sat in Kaite’s kitchen while the delicate light of morning sprinkled through the divided windowpanes.He couldn’t resist the magical pull of her eyes. giving him an open path. he knew it was the right one. every muscle screamed for more.” she whispered as her head fell back. “I’ll be right there. He wanted to take another taste. “Jack. Instead. “You better go in.

Suddenly. she lifted a fringed shawl from one of the hooks and wrapped it around her arms. but if she caught him off-guard. With shoulders sagging shoulders. They had an easy way with each other between the teasing and the laughter they shared. When she heard no movements inside. 67 . It wasn’t. Cala pressed her splayed fingers over her stomach and took in a steadying breath. While she waited for the tea to boil. she watched the glittering dust motes dance in the shaft of sunlight. she tightened the shawl around her arms. an idea clicked in.” Once back in the kitchen. checkered tablecloth as she remembered the first breakfast she’d shared with Kaite and Shamus in this kitchen. She smiled. The hour was early. Cala’s fingers smoothed out the non-wrinkles on the yellow. she gathered up some cheese and bread. As she made her way back to the house. then Cala McCoy would just have to go to the mountain. it was Kaite. She waited and knocked again. She raced down the stone path and quickly knocked on the cottage door. Time was a precious commodity now. She’d pack a few things in a basket and search him out. Jack would have no excuse but to accept her invitation for dinner. They spun and twirled through the air with such grace they looked like tiny winged fairies. It frightened her the way he was spending so much time walking the rocky she asked Cala thousands of questions about her job and Oughterard while the scent of freshly baked bread swirled around them. Their love had soaked into the walls. turned and shook her head. Her gaze moved slowly around the room. as Kaite had told Jack. “Kaite. but it would take far more than words to do what needed to be done. She stretched her gaze up to the beamed ceiling. There were so many wonderful memories in this room that she couldn’t help taking a few out to fill the void Kaite had left. Cala felt the weight of her responsibility. She’d learned the mechanics of the old ways and she knew the ceremonies by heart. “If the mountain won’t be comin’ to Muhammad. the furniture and even the lace curtains that hung over the windows. Just before opening it. if you’re not too busy up there. and they quickly brought Cala into their conversation. that this house was the heart of the Donegal family. would you mind givin’ me a hand? So far I’m failin’ and the fear of it grips me.” Cala pushed up from the table and moved to the back door.

Lately. but when his arm coiled around her waist. She could smell the damp air clinging to his woolen jacket.” The sharp whistle of the kettle put a stop to his advancing steps and gave her a chance to move away without him following her. at least. “I care about you like I do everyone in the family. and she didn’t need to be struggling with his temperament now. she cared for Michael. there had been a cold intensity in his eyes. “But ya know how I feel about ya and I know ya care about me.If Jack could see the beauty in life all around him. It would spark with just a look. Cala quickly moved out of the circle. She turned and pressed her back against the counter while tucking her shaking hands into the pockets of her cotton slacks. Not in this lifetime. she asked. “Michael. I can feel it. he’d change his mind about leaving this plain.” Cala gasped. She shivered. He made it clear he’d do only what was expected of him but nothing more. Kaite was right.” Cala released a sigh that only she could hear. that force blended with his ire and flashed out. please don’t be doin’ that. Then. She turned off the burner and lifted the whistling kettle. After turning to the stove. The weight of the heavy iron gave her a false sense of security. her head snapped up. or maybe a biscuit or two?” When Michael stepped up behind her. Yes.” His raspy words brought his breath past her ear. Michael’s temper was like flint to a rock.” she replied as she watched the steaming water splash into the teapot. She forced the fear out from her eyes and pushed in as much calm determination as she could. and it was Cala’s responsibility to lead Jack back to a time before hatred consumed his soul. “Ya better not be thinkin’ about me with that scowl crossin’ yar brow. which had started when Kaite told him Jack was coming for a visit. and her gaze leveled with Michael’s. Michael had always been there for her. He insisted that he didn’t need to go through all that again. She immediately wiped the irritation from her face. Why was she thinking like this? Michael had never hurt her. when she and the family approached Michael about the situation. There was a moment or two that she’d 68 . “I was hopin’ to catch ya alone this mornin’. but she loved Jack. “Would you be likin’ a cup of tea. her spine stiffened. She wasn’t lying. the time for talking was over.

been thinking of him as more than just family, but that all changed with Jack’s first letter. When she moved to set the teapot on the table, Michael reached out and pulled her to him. “There’s always been a touch more than carin’ between us,” he stated slowly as his eyes drifted down to her mouth. “Michael, please not now.” His arms tightened, putting meaning to his words. Sunlight touched the brush of yellow stubble covering the sharp line of his jaw. His blue eyes burned with anger as he hissed, “If not now, then when? The proposal’s been hangin’ out there for years. Ya can nay be expectin’ a man to be a waitin’ indefinite.” Cala pulled back on his hold. When his arms fell away, relief rushed through her. Her blood hammered in her ears, but she wouldn’t let him see her fear. “The time isn’t right, with Kaite’s passin’ and Samhain and all.” Michael leaned forward and clasped his hands around the chair’s top. His knuckles whitened against the strain of his grip. His upper lip curled. “Why don’t ya spit the real reason out? ’Tis not all those other thin’s, ’tis him. ’Tis always been him from the first.” Cala’s chest tightened and her breath came out in short quick spurts. The cold, hard anger in Michael’s eyes cut through her. Yes, it was Jack, but if she spoke what was in her heart, Michael’s pride would blind him and his anger would take control. That would defeat what had to be, and Jack would be lost forever. “You mustn’t be thinkin’ that way.” Michael’s lips disappeared in a mocking smile. “Och, not only do ya think I’m stupid, but ya think I’m blind as well. Haven’t I been watchin’ just how ya are when he’s around? Ya’re in love with him. Ya always have been and ya always will be, but lovin’ him doesn’t make it right for ya.” Cala dropped her gaze. She didn’t dare let Michael see the lie she was about to tell. “I’m worried about him, ’tis all. Just like everyone in the family is.” Michael shot out a quick snorting laugh. “They’re worried about his soul, but ya’re worried about his heart.” “One does not exist without the other.” Cala sent her answer to the floor. He drew his cap from his pocket and slammed it on his head. The tension between them vibrated in the air, but Cala refused to


turn her gaze back to his face. She heard the heels of his shoes clack across the bare floor to the door, but she didn’t hear the door open. “Ya’re thinkin’ that this time will be different, but if ya remember, I had ya then, too, and history is known to be repeatin’ itself,” he said, before making his way out the door. Cala’s body shook with the memory. Her arms tightened around her middle but nothing stopped the coldness from spreading through her. How could he bring that ugly memory to life? That time was worlds away.


Chapter 9
During the days since Kaite’s funeral, Jack had purposely sidestepped every one of Cala’s invitations for one meal or another. A couple of times, he’d been hard pressed for an excuse. So, this morning, instead of being caught flatfooted, he’d slipped out early and headed for the beach. While trekking over the crags, he’d found a footpath that steadily spiraled its way upward through the rocks. The strain of the climb and the damp air had added to the pain in his leg. Yet, his determination to reach the summit became so absolute, even the cost of pain didn’t matter. Mindlessly, he clawed his way up the path, all the while feeling a strange omnipresence driving him on. When he at last pulled himself up to the highest point, he sucked in deep breaths of the cool, fresh, new air that rushed off the sea. He needed it to cleanse himself of the addiction - the addiction Cala had put in his blood with her kiss. As he looked out across the water, he watched swift currents toss the whitecaps high into the air and send them crashing against the staggering coastline. They repeatedly hit the rocks like angry fists, and the steady roar of the sea offered Jack an unusual sense of solitude. He concentrated on the checklist he kept in his head. He rechecked all the legalities of his will, which made Tim executor. For the sake of his friend, Jack made sure the church would get a fair piece of his estate. The rest of the money would be divided among a few chosen children’s charities. Everything was in order, but there was one loose end. Cala. Did he owe her an explanation? Not really, yet something gnawed at his gut. Even if he could think of what to say, she wouldn’t understand his reasons. Jack pushed out a long sigh. Then again, maybe she’d understand them too well. A sudden pain stabbed hard and deep into his leg. “Dammit!” he shouted, clamping his hand around his thick thigh. His fingers kneaded the throbbing muscles but nothing changed. With his hand locked on his knee, he hobbled to the nearest boulder and sat down. As he massaged his knee, the pain repeatedly exploded. Jack slammed his eyes shut and sucked in a breath through his teeth. He buried his fingers into the muscle and turned his face


he was on his feet and making his way back down the rocky slope. he was unsure of his decision. He slowly opened his eyes to the morning sunlight. now. Lavender. Once the disappointment passed. a small shadow raced along the shoreline. then he knew she was here with him. He begged her to come back. If that was the case. When he reached the cave’s entrance. The cave opened up quickly.” Jack softly called back to the breeze. and for the first time. The trek down was quicker. 72 . “Kaite. he shouted her name over the crashing sounds of the sea. Jack folded down onto the boulder and dropped his face into his hands. since he spent most of it on his backside instead of his legs. It had disappeared behind a large black cloud. Dank. The salty scent mingled with the sweet scent of flowers. Jack’s gaze slowly drifted over the beach. His heart was racing but he wasn’t sure why. not from fear but from the excitement of at last knowing.up to the sun to wait for the blinding white light behind his eyes to mellow. knowing that there was truly something more beyond this existence. Jack stopped. The air crackled with an electrical charge. It’s been said that ghosts return to the places they love. but she was gone. He searched the skies above and the uneven landscape below. Someone was there. His mind couldn’t grasp what it was. yet a faint aroma trickled in. He lowered to his knees and ducked cautiously into the dark hole. so he stood up and let his eyes adjust to the darkness. his heart raced. There. even at the cost of a black and blue backside. When the energized air began settling down. but there was no light. Jack jumped to his feet. When it disappeared into a black hole buried in the side of a hill. All he knew was that he had to find out what type of animal just crawled into this small opening. The way it continually dashed from sunlight to shade had him straining over the edge to see where it was going. his determination took control of him. A strange tingle walked up his spine while he slashed his gaze in all directions. Then a rushing breeze blew in off the sea. He lifted his head up. He snapped his eyes wide. stagnant air drifted around him. Once again. The warm rays tenderly caressed his face and he felt the painraked lines on his brow even out.

“What’s going on?” Jack slowly trailed the light down the length of the boy’s body he noticed an irregular dark stain spreading out near the center of the teenager’s chest. and the injured boy lifted a weak hand to cup the smaller one’s face. Only his own voice. came back to him. “Who’s there?” Jack called out. His eyes duplicated the younger boy’s both in shape and in fear. if people were having a picnic. there’s nothin’ to be afeared of from this American. “Don’t be frettin’. don’t be tellin’ on us. “What the hell happened?” 73 . Niall. The younger boy dropped to his knees. When he reached out for the small boy’s arm.Then it hit him. the stronger the mouth-watering scent of roasted food became.” the teenager begged. Somewhere between the pungent. He stepped away from the wall and put an authoritative tone into his voice. more so with his eyes than the strength of his words.” “But Peter.” A tiny click preceded a light that flared up into a pair of wide.” “Please. Another breathy sound scratched against the darkness. The deeper into the belly he went. “Show yourself.” Jack yanked the flashlight from the boy’s trembling hand and shot the light down at the sound. he heard what sounded like a slight wheeze. He flattened himself against the rock wall and held his breath. “I said. Jack smiled. Lying stretched out on a wet piece of cardboard was a long. Just as he was about to take another step. if he does…” “Sssh now. then. bouncing from wall to wall. “What the hell are you up to in here?” Jack asked as he slowly moved toward the shaking beam of light. fear-filled eyes set deep in a small dirty face.” Jack dropped down to his knees. He had his hand buried inside his bloodly shirt as if trying to hold the wound together. slimy surface soaked through his sweater and seeped into his back. why in the hell would they cook in a cave? Jack moved cautiously into the cavern. The wall’s cold. “Please sir. This is no animal’s den. who’s there? You better answer or I’ll notify the police you’re here. Still. “Don’t hurt him. that’s for sure. a ragged whisper cracked out from behind the boy. musty smell and the dampness was the delicious aroma of baked potato.” a small voice called out overlaying Jack’s echo. The man won’t be tellin’ anyone. lanky blond teenager. He fought hard to hold back a shudder.

The only thin’ I’m needin’ is yar promise. Tears 74 . Jack quickly snatched up the gun. the doctor will only be waistin’ his time. so Jack offered his knees for better support. Peter slowly lifted his eyelids and sent a slight smile up at Jack. Niall answered. Jack dropped it onto the cardboard and folded to the young man’s side. trying to get permission to touch him.” “Then let me get your parents. all the while the small boy’s eyes stayed locked on his brother’s pale white face. “Peter. “Niall will be tellin’ ya the story later when there’s more time. Jack slid his hand under Peter’s matted blond head. Peter’s breath became less ragged. “If ya’re thinkin’ about makin’ a move to leave. rolling back onto his heels. you’re bleeding to death! I’ve gotta get a doctor. I’ll have to kill ya. With a soft moan. “I’m getting a doctor. Considering the way Peter held the gun. Yank. “You’re hurt.” “Promise? For Christ’s sake. but stopped when Peter’s eyes pinned him with a silent threat.” “Too late. The young man’s eyes stayed hard.” “Nay.” Jack begged.He started to reach his hand to the bloodstain. Without turning his attention from his brother. “Da’s been gone a long while and our mam’s been dead for near a year now. ’Tis only Peter and meself. Jack was stopped by the strength of Peter’s direct order. Jack had no reason to doubt him. Niall pushed himself closer and took Peter’s hand.” As he was about to turn on his heels. please.” Peter warned. but instead of holding it on Peter. so mark me words. Scooting closer. His eyes folded back into his head and the gun rolled out of his hand.” “What are you two doing up here with a gun?” Peter stretched his gaze up to Jack’s face.” Peter’s struggle for a breath stole the rest of his sentence. Jack picked up the flashlight and rolled to his feet.” Jack said.” Peter’s eyes closed again as he sucked in a chattering breath and clutched his chest. “What the shit is this?” Jack asked. let the American be gettin’ a doctor. “I know how to use this. “I thought…” “I don’t give a fiddler’s fart what ya thought. Jack’s eyes shot to Niall’s face.” Jack turned and the light glinted off a gun’s barrel. he gripped his chest and curled into a ball.

” Peter’s hand latched onto Jack’s arm. Jack pressed his finger to the artery on Peter’s neck.” Peter’s gaze stayed on his brother. “What’s yar name. Why was death slamming into Jack at every corner? Was this some sort of karma retaliation for his ancestors? Or was it the learning lesson that Cala spoke of? He sighed. then tenderly brushed a matted blond lock from Peter’s forehead. What he could do was give Peter what he needed. That was the nearest thing to a true prayer that Jack had ever heard. The space between the faint beats lengthened until there was nothing but space. Niall. Peter’s reply was to drop his gaze from Jack’s face to Niall’s. “I’m askin’ ya to keep me brother safe.” Jack was about to clarify Peter’s statement. The rattle was unmistakable. 75 .” “Safe from what?” Jack questioned.where streaking through the dirt on his cheeks and past the bottom lip he held tightly between his teeth. Yank?” Peter asked from behind closed eyes. involuntarily.” The teen pulled in a long ragged breath and released it slowly. Jack tightened his grip. “Stop yar cryin’. Peter’s body slacked in Jack’s arms and. lad. Mr. then they could stop because he sure as hell learned the damned ones already. Niall screamed out his brother’s name and buried his tears and his face in Peter’s chest. Wolfe will take care of ya. The echoing name repeatedly slammed against the cavern’s walls until it was nothing more than a soft whisper. Jack had no choice but to answer with a minuscule nod.” The teen’s breath became shallow and his eyes drifted closed. but stopped when he saw the fear of death in the young man’s eyes. I’ll do what you’ve asked. If that’s so. Jack swallowed down his refusal. “Jack Wolfe. I’ll be tellin’ her what a good boy ya’ve been. “Peter. “Rest easy. The young man’s painfilled eyes flashed open with a sudden surge of strength. “When I see our mam. No way could Jack stop what was about to happen. Niall’s panic-filled eyes searched Jack’s face.

would he accept it from her? From outside. Forgiveness and love would open the gates.” she whispered as she raced to the back door and pulled the door wide. Hatred. He was only jealous. Her mind kept screaming that Michael wasn’t evil. Sean was no Shamus but was eager to prove himself. Cala had done nothing but sit by the kitchen table with her head buried in her hands.” “You’re the garda. “OH MY SWEET JESUS!” “I’ll not make the decision for you. horrible memories. Sean.” Cala said as she poured two cups of tea. Cala lifted her head and raked back the hair from her forehead. She snapped back the curtain. he did just that. sandy-colored hair. More so. Yet. goes on forever until forgiveness puts up a barricade. and for six years. up in Ballinrobe. It was time for it all to be over.Chapter 10 For hours. Michael’s words had triggered memories. but all she could see were a few of Michael’s cows grazing on the patches of dried grass in the pasture below. if he loved her. but would Jack accept both? Cala rolled back into her chair and folded her arms across her middle. but the pain of knowin’ I forced you to be a part of this conspiracy would be worse than a bullet to my heart. Cala jumped away from the table and dashed to the window over the sink. As she studied the field. You know the law and the consequences of breakin’ it. The only thing Cala was concerned with was the frightened young lad sitting on the front porch steps. and sunlight spread through his thinning. would he use that other time against her like that? Cala slowly shook her head. only louder this time. “Jack. like love. Cala remembered the day he stepped into Shamus’ position. what she saw in Michael’s eyes made the fear in her shout just as loudly. shouts rang out. no matter what the price. What a man did on his own time was no concern to her. Why. but the fact that he was the town’s constable was the important thing. another shout came. 76 . There were rumors of him spending his free time. I’ll gladly accept my punishment. “If we’re caught. His blue eyes were faded.” She lifted her gaze from the cup to Sean Raftery’s narrow face. and most of his money.

we must get rid of the gun.” “Aye. there’s no mistakin’ the boy is a northerner. but I don’t know how I can stop an investigation if it starts from someplace else. somewhere will be missin’ both boys sooner or later.” Sean shook his head while replying. “That’s what he said. “What can we do from here to keep the Brits from swoopin’ down on us?” “First. “I’ve no problem makin’ the decision. but she had no choice but to turn to him. Cala felt relieved that she didn’t have to look at it any longer. Where had this come from? How many had it killed? “The bog will do a fine job of gettin’ rid of the evidence. but let’s not be puttin’ too much trust in the lad just yet. Still.” “You heard it from Niall. She was frightened. Unlike most villages. He was a difficult man to read. They don’t have family. Sean swallowed the last of his tea and rolled out of his chair. yet you still look muddled. “Maybe we shouldn’t worry about that now?” 77 .” Cala took a sip of the hot liquid before asking. and the family.” Cala followed Sean to the back door. “I’m concerned that someone. taking her finger off the cold steel. When he tucked the gun into the pocket of his jacket.” Cala slowly nodded as she reached out and touched the tip of her finger to the gun’s barrel.” she said.” she stated. Cala knew the town couldn’t bear up under such close inspection. Worried lines knitted across his brow.” “Like where?” “Belfast. One slip of a tongue and the town would be flooded with police.” Cala answered. If the Brits are involved they’ll start an investigation and this is the first thin’ they’ll be lookin’ for. closely studying Sean’s face. There he stopped and massaged the muscles as he talked to the hot cup of tea. “What about the body?” Sean asked.Sean plowed his fingers through the thin strands of his hair until he reached the back of his neck. for Sean. “I think we’ve covered all of it. for Niall. “The family will be takin’ care of the funeral and such. At least not until we know all the facts. Niall had to be saved.

and for all eternity. If he kept his vow to protect Niall. but she couldn’t. she was sure that before too long the dark plain would claim Jack. Cala chewed on his words for a while. Digging her nails into her palms. The part he’d play in Niall’s escape would keep Jack from Ireland forever. She wanted to promise him that everything would be all right. she and Jack tossed around scenarios that might work. He wanted to just bury Peter and ask a family to take Niall in. The best solution was for Niall to be smuggled into America. Before phoning Sean. but the price of a child’s life was always steep. He alone had to make this decision. They both decided that he needed the anonymity of a city. The village was out of the way. 78 . Cala walked into the parlor and found Jack standing at the window looking into the darkness.” Sean answered. and even then. then she and Jack would never be together again. she wanted to wrap her arms around his waist and press her cheek to his back.“Aye. keeping his gaze on the porch where Niall sat. The weight of her heart pushed out a sigh. but I’d sooner be expectin’ it than be caught with me pants down. She also heard him say he’d made a promise to a dying boy. and no one else could do it but Jack. and then filed through the back door. The risks were great for everyone. he’d regret what he’d done. preferably out of Ireland. He rubbed his hands together. everything might not be all right. She’d heard him tell what happened out on the cliffs. If he broke the promise he’d made to Peter. and she was sure he was struggling with that vow now. but not so isolated from the world that a little boy could get lost in it.

Yet. even for strangers like Niall and Jack. As her eyes gently searched his face. “I’m sorry. Jack turned back to the window. He considered what he going to do now. “I’m right in the middle of this. “You don’t have to be handlin’ it alone. He also knew that sometimes the absence of words was more of a comfort.” 79 . and his head hanging low. he knew she was looking for answers he didn’t have.” “Aye.” Her caring eyes entered his muddled thoughts like a guiding hand to help him through the minefield of questions that plagued him. answers that he might never have. not personally.” Cala said as she came up behind Jack. someway. Jack understood that no amount of words could erase the boy’s pain. The boy’s grief had his small back rolled. Jack turned to Cala. but his confused thoughts had contaminated it. However. “He can’t be stayin’ out there all night. and nothing he did would release the tension. I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do. Even knowing that. he could make damn sure Niall was taken care of somehow. Jack embedded his fingers into the taut muscles of his neck. During Conner’s illness. I only know that what Niall told the police was a lie.” He quickly added. The need to take her in his arms rippled through his body. Niall sat alone on Kaite’s front porch steps as the night slowly closed in around him. He hadn’t intended his answer to come out sharp. and Niall still sat on the porch. and without knowing what really happened to Peter. the bitter taste of guilt filled Jack’s mouth.” Jack barked. with Cala. smoothing out the wrinkles on her brow. She had so much love in her heart. “I just don’t know what to do. Every nerve wanted to know what it was like to have someone to share the burden of life with. Jack looked at his watch.Chapter 11 Every muscle in Jack’s neck was coiled. he’d made a promise to a dying boy. at least. I agree. Three hours had passed since the undertaker had taken Peter’s body away. “I know that. A promise Jack knew he couldn’t keep. he wanted to share his every thought. Damn.” Cala replied. Jack never allowed anyone to share the weight he carried in his heart.

” Jack quickly answered. too. and being honest with the kid was the only way Jack could think of getting it. Overhead. Amber light spreading down through the window caught the fear marked in his wide. “Remember.” “Aren’t you getting cold?” Jack asked the boy and sat down onto the wooden step. Boys are confused as to where they should be placin’ their loyalty. Without lifting his eyes to Jack. He wasn’t sure how to handle this one.Jack kept his gaze pinned on Niall’s back as he spoke. the boy shook his low hanging head. you told the policeman the story. “Yes. “We need to talk about what happened to Peter. “Do you want me to question Niall?” “No.” Cala turned to the window. You have to give him a chance. a sprinkle of stars shimmered in the sky. but he didn’t turn to her. Shit. “My gut’s telling me that there’s a helluva lot more to this than that concocted story Niall dished out. Jack’s heart swelled.” 80 . He watched as a gentle night breeze set small clusters of leaves to dance at the foot of the steps. Why would he be worried for his brother’s safety if the whole thing was nothing more than an accident?” Cala stepped in closer and pressed her hand on Jack’s arm. The air carried the scent of turf fires.” Niall’s body stiffened and his head shot up. The aromatic fragrance sent an invitation to all outside to come and join them. “I told the garda what happened. Jack said. If he does. but now I’d like you to tell me the truth. The intensity of the boy’s reaction was enough to confirm that Jack was on the right track. brown eyes.” Jack began backing away from the window. how do you get a kid to trust you enough to even want to tell you the truth when you’ve only known each other for a few hours? Jack needed the boy’s trust now.” Niall insisted. How could someone so young bear so much pain? “With Peter’s last breath. but Cala’s hand on his shoulder stopped him. “He’s got to trust me enough to tell me the truth. then I’ll have a better idea what I’m supposed to do. He felt her eyes on his face. he made me promise to keep Niall safe. and I’m sure Sean knows it. Keeping his gaze locked on Niall’s face. but baiting the boy into giving a straight answer wasn’t the way to get the information that Jack needed to make a decision. he’s only a wee lad.

We have time now. ’tis Malone. they knew the ways of livin’ off the streets.” “And you agreed?” Jack asked. Instead. There wasn’t a shadow of regret in their brown centers. and I don’t think he meant for you to tell me the lie you told the police. Niall had to do this all on his own. I have to know the truth. “Aye.” Jack pushed calmness into his voice as he asked. ’Twas easy for me ‘cause I was small and fast. They invited us to come to live in a place called the clubhouse. but Belfast. that ’tis the true part. “One day. just a cellar in a bombed out buildin’. “If I do. “Are your parents alive?” Niall quickly turned his eyes to the ground. One was that we had to be doin’ a little stealin’ now and again to help out with expenses.” Niall took in a ragged breath. we were to be throwin’ stones and such at the Brits. Mickey announced we were all to start fightin’ for Ireland. Bein’ the oldest. We found some fellas who were like us. Hearing Niall begin to tell the truth made Jack want to pull the boy to him.” 81 . Peter and I took to the streets.Niall’s shoulders rolled forward and his gaze dropped to his folded hands. he braced his elbows on his knees and carefully threaded his fingers together as he waited. “Our last name isn’t O’Donnell. “No. His white knuckles were a sharp contrast against the dirt that covered his hands. giving him a chance to search the boy’s eyes for the answer. He used the back of his hand to wipe away the tears that fell when he’d spoken his last name.” The tightness in Jack’s chest unfurled. They had rules.” Niall said in a heavy whisper.” Niall’s head angled to Jack. “If I’m going to help. “Mickey Nugent and Angus O’Flynn were the leaders. Jack knew the boy was trying to push the hard truth out around the lie. We’re not from County Cork. but to hear it from a child’s own lips made the picture far too real. ’Twasn’t much. children were used all the time. but Jack knew it wasn’t from the cold. ya’ll a be hatin’ me. When Niall swallowed. He knew that in war. “After Mam’s death.” Niall shivered. Peter said you’d tell me the whole story when there was more time. “The story I told the garda was the one Peter made me promise to tell them.” Niall lifted his eyes to Jack. but a cloud of unshed tears got in Jack’s way.

“And he helped me get Peter on a train. Just then. “There was a small boozer where the Brits downed their pints. Niall continued. attempting to ease the pain of Niall’s memory. but I didn’t want to leave me brother. He coughed to clear the tears out of his voice before he could go on. “Aye. When the train stopped. The need to draw the boy closer grew stronger. no matter what the cause. They shot at them. War and poverty had stolen this boy’s youth. The tension in Niall’s small body eased as he continued with his tale.” Rolling his small shoulders forward. Jack draped his arm over the boy’s shoulders. “We didn’t know the soldiers were waitin’ for us.” Niall took in a deep ragged breath. wasn’t it?” Jack asked. Niall’s small muscles quivered beneath Jack’s arm. Angus came up with some good homemade bombs along with a couple of guns and a plan how to use them. no doubt trying to draw on some inner strength to get to the end of his story. “Peter was one of the boys that carried a gun. The plan was for us younger lads to be a ridin’ on our bikes and throw some bricks through the windows. Jack hated the arrogance of both sides for taking such a special gift away from any child. but Peter had been hit. I didn’t see how it happened.Jack looked into the depths of Niall’s eyes and realized what was missing in them.” Niall answered behind a hard sniffle. but when the older boys came with their bombs.” Niall’s eyes flashed and his spine locked. Innocence. tossin’ the bombs through the openin’. but after a time. Niall shifted into Jack’s side. Mickey helped to get Peter out. “That’s where Peter got shot. Jack eased out a long silent sigh. Peter said he was becomin’ too ill to go on. We weren’t sure where we were goin’. I helped Peter get off.” The pain in Niall’s heart echoed in his cracking voice. Most of the younger boys were able to get away.” Niall’s hands trembled as he spoke. but Jack held back. the Brits came out from every doorway.” 82 . “I don’t remember how long we rode the train. nothin’ happened.” Niall threaded and unthreaded his fingers as he spoke. “A fortnight ago. We only knew that we’d go to prison if we stayed. The older boys were to follow on foot. “When us younger boys rode up.

and yet as a reward for his fidelity. This child. “I prayed that God would make Peter better. so I prayed for help. Peter told me that he didn’t think he’d be leavin’ the place.” Turning his face up to Jack. “I don’t hate you. his voice was thick with emotion. “Just before ya came upon us. Was life just a series of accidents that we stumbled into as we went along? Or was Tim right? God makes no mistakes.” Jack wanted to nod his head in agreement.” As Niall spoke. he never stopped wringing his hands.” As Jack made the statement. I was too afraid to be leavin’ Peter’s side.” he replied with a small shake of his head. The first night. Peter said we should stay away from people. yet he continued to hold on to his faith without question. So we followed the water line. This one had an inner strength that had been missing from the other boy’s eyes. he angled his head to look closer at the boy’s face. Niall’s eyes clicked with surprise. “I met no one in the fields. “Peter was havin’ a hard time walkin’.” Searching Jack’s face. Jack tightened his hold on Niall’s shoulders.Niall looked out into the near space as if watching the scene replay before his eyes. “That was when I ran into you that night. Niall said. had faced the deprivation of family and love. I found a potato or two that hadn’t been collected. “’Twas dark when we got off. me stomach was so empty that I went out and poked around in some of the farmer’s fields. When he restarted the tale. so I helped him. I cooked them up. That’s when you showed up. Niall added. but he wasn’t sure that he did agree. A shadow of shame crept into the boy’s brown eyes. Where’s the logic in that? Niall sucked in a cleansing breath as he examined Jack’s face. He made me promise that after he died.” 83 . “Peter didn’t eat much. The corners of his mouth drooped and his lower lip twitched.” Niall lowered his brow before he continued. but He seemed to have other plans. of no more than ten. I was afeared. As Jack studied the boy’s features. This was what faith was all about. The second night. but I saw the light of the town. I’d be goin’ to the garda and tell them the story of the accident.” Niall said in a trembling voice. “I knew ya’d be a hatin’ me once ya heard the truth. he realized this wasn’t the same boy. God sent him a self-absorbed drunk. When I brought it back.

No. you are. His jumbled thoughts had clogged his ears to anything but what was in his mind. and neither do I.” Cala tucked her skirt beneath her legs and said. I haven’t the slightest idea who to turn to. The rustling wind sliced through the tangled bare branches. that’s not what Peter wanted. “Still. Jack listened to sounds that filled the uncomfortable pause. and have you end up like your brother. “Right. but he heard no answers in their delicate whispers. “Right. I don’t know what to do.” Jack turned Niall’s face back to his.” He then turned a serious face back to Cala. “Don’t tell me you really are involved with Sinn Fein. “His heart’s with Ireland first. Then she turned her gaze back to Jack. I’ll just be a hoppin’ the train to Belfast. Cala patted the boy’s arm.“Then why ’tis it yar face is all screwed up?” Jack pushed a soft smile onto his lips.” she restated as she slid into the other spot beside Niall. “Yes. “Ya don’t have to be a keepin’ yar promise to Peter. that’s right. “Do you think your boss would help the kid?” 84 .” Jack rolled his eyes and heaved out a long sigh.” Jack turned to Niall as he released the boy’s shoulders and patted his back. There’s many a loyal Irishman that my employer’s found a way to be a helpin’. and her voice softened. The day’s tears had cleared his dirt-smudged cheeks. “Not in as many years. “What?” he asked “I said. ’Tis easy enough for me to be gettin’ lost in the city.” “He’s not that kind of a man.” When Niall dropped his gaze back to his hands.” Cala said to Niall. then at Jack. The tenderness in her eyes touched the aching spot in Jack’s heart.” Jack said with a shake of his head. “Because.” That statement raised a small smile on Niall’s lips. but you’ve been through enough to surely qualify. “No. I do.” “I’m not a man. “I do. but I work for a barrister. He’ll bring the law down on this kid faster than you could spit.” Jack’s gaze shot up and hit onto Cala’s face.” Niall slashed a worried look first at Cala. Jack turned his attention out to the night.

When Cala inched her hand to him. Was this God’s plan? Jack tried listening to his heart.” Jack hesitated. he took it and came up from the steps. the two moved into the house.” Her eyes ignited with an explosion of undiluted fury.” Niall’s small face wrinkled in question.” “America?” Cala questioned. “’Tis your promise. keeping his eyes locked with hers. “I could make arrangements for the kid to be met when he arrives. “And are you the one to be takin’ the lad?” she asked in an icy. The air rippled with the uneasy vibrations Cala was transmitting. but it had been so battered by grief he wasn’t sure it could still speak to him.” Jack answered. “Maybe you should be thinkin’ this through. when death is involved.” she seethed through her teeth. nay someone else’s. nothing ever is.a queen who would have her subjects disemboweled if they reneged on a commitment. God has a plan. looking down into Niall’s upturned face. He watched as she nervously drew her lower lip through her teeth. The line of her shoulders sharpened. “What happens to him when he gets there?” “There’s a priest I know who could make sure my promise was kept. He couldn’t hold on to his curiosity any longer. Instead. Cala lifted from the steps and held her long. This wasn’t simple. level voice. she kept her gaze on Niall’s small face. Suddenly. What if this so-called boss didn’t have any cards up his sleeve? What then? Jack shook his head as he stirred the thoughts around. “First.. Together.” Jack said as he followed after them. “If a promise is kept. let’s see if your boss can come up with a better solution.Cala turned away from him and stared out into the darkness. He paced its width then stopped. it doesn’t matter who keeps it. “I think that Niall needs to get to America. 85 . “Why the worried look?” Cala didn’t turn to his question. She looked like a queen. “That depends on what you’ll be a wantin’.” he barked. Jack rolled to his feet and stepped down onto the stone path. thin hand out to Niall. Father Tim’s words echoed in his head.. Then again.

that is. “Now ya’re bein’ even more reckless than Kaite was with her foolish ideas. his boiling anger slowed to a simmer. He sharpened his eyes to define his anger. While he waited for his argument to take root. Control. but that didn’t stop his tirade. he reminded himself to keep the reasoning simple and she’d follow it. but no amount of badgering. They know that Niall has to get out of Ireland and we must help him. but Kaite was gone and that meant he’d have the upper hand from now on. she’d catch him at every turn. He fought back a smile. not Cala.” He passed Cala once more. “Ya’re gettin’ involved with the authorities in thin’s that will assuredly take us all down. then what?!” It didn’t take long for his lengthy strides to chew up the width of the kitchen. he repeated inside his head. He knew how to handle one dull-witted woman. he stopped at the sink and cocked his hip against the white porcelain edge. and the world with it. hadn’t he handled nearly all his dull-witted family? All except Kaite. Reading her mind was a simple thing to do. then returned to the other side of the room. and Michael had the Donegal blood running through his veins. He matched his pacing steps to the quick huffing breaths he shot out as he moved from one side of the room to the other.” Michael trekked across the room.” Michael shouted to Cala’s upturned face.” he said. “Ya’ll be bringin’ the whole British army to Tirnageata. The family made the decision. She wasn’t a complicated woman. The family needed a strong leader. Cala’s mouth lined. As the idea took on more form. Times had changed.Chapter 12 “I don’t like the idea one wee bit. was 86 . When he tried his manipulation on her. not me.” Michael remembered how hard he fought against the family at the meeting. raking his fingers through his blond hair more for effect. This might be exactly what he needed to convince the family that now was the time for a man to take the reins. “You were there last night at the meetin’. Hell. His hands clinched at his side as the urge to slam his fists into something rippled through him. Finally. last night or today. Control. The mantra pushed some of the intensity aside and a thought struck him. “Ya must be realizin’ what will happen to the town if the government gets wind of that boy bein’ here.

He was the most qualified in the old ways. When Cala turned back to him. the ones that even the ancestors turned away from. Hell. If he could get her to lose control of her temper. and glared directly at her. on Jack or yourself. “Yes. Her shoulders were sagging under her misplaced power. I know that every one of us could be put in harm’s way. then he’d score points in his favor with the family at the next meeting. tears shimmered in her eyes. Those were the rituals he’d perfected. but should we be turnin’ away from the child?” She moved to his side and lifted her hand to place it on his shoulder. The ones their faith wouldn’t allow a woman to perform.” Cala said. he’d even taught some of them to Cala. Both times they voted with their hearts. She’d never have the strength to do what had to be done if it meant their survival. She thought it would be Jack’s.going to change things. as she had done before. The steady click-clack of his heels against the 87 . turning her gaze away. He didn’t want Cala to see the pleasure sparking in his eyes. “You most of all know that we could not be doin’ that no matter what the price. Our belief locks us into not turnin’ our backs on the boy. She wasn’t as strong as Kaite. He could hear how she forced her voice to stay away from her rising agitation. You were there from the beginnin’. The argument would play well into his plan after the authorities swooped down on Tirnageata He lined his gaze and narrowed his eyes to stress his next question. put a caustic line across his brow.” He thinned his lips. That’s what this is all about. He’d be the leader of the family and Cala would be warming his bed.” Michael pulled away from the sink and marched to the table and back again. “Do ya understand?” He knew she caught the intensity of his question before she turned away from him. The game was now going to be played by his rules. A druid priest had the advantage over a mere woman. He held back the smile that tickled his lips. but not all. This was going to be easier than he thought. “We cannot go through this time without correctin’ the errors we’ve made in the past. The old woman knew that Cala needed a strong hand. Michael looked at his upturned palm and quickly turned his gaze to the floor. “You heard the family agree to help Jack. and you heard them last night when they came to the decision about Niall.

“Och. “The boy is a ten-year old child. We all have to care. They’ll nay be givin’ up lookin’ for the lad until he’s ninety and nine. but mark me words. He might want to take control of the family.” “I know what will happen if the authorities are led to us.” “Ya know that isn’t true.” “Ya’ll be willin’ to risk all for a hooligan.” Cala was obviously struggling with her rising temper.” Michael shot out a sarcastic chuckle then answered. if the lad isn’t given up to the authorities. then?” “Hooligan?” She leapt to her feet.” “I’m not gullible. but not even ya’ll be able to be a stoppin’ it this time. “Kaite wanted this for you. “Please don’t be doin’ this. I’ll not be tossin’ the boy to the authorities.” Michael brushed her hand off his arm. sure ya’re a stubborn woman.wooden floor added to the drama of his words. but that wouldn’t fit into his long-range plans. then?” He held the hard glare in total demand of an answer. Michael.” “Ya’re goin’ ahead with the foolishness. “Ya’re wrong. “Aye. I care. Calatin McCoy. and he’ll be livin’ in America with his grandchildren. “I’m just tryin’ to show ya how gullible ya are. The sin has truly been forgotten with time. maybe even more so than for Jack. “But you’re knowin’ the importance of it.” Michael shot his finger up to her face. “Just where will yar compassion be if Tirnageata is destroyed? That happened once.” Cala said. but he wanted her. too.” 88 . we’ll all be imprisoned for his crimes. She rested a hand on his arm. His chest rose and fell quickly before he answered. ya’d know that the Donegals are all too familiar with the ways of the English.” he said through his teeth. “I never asked for it. He could raise his voice and feign his temper to frighten her into his way of thinking. but I must help the boy. The boy’s suckered ya in. look how easily he managed yarself and the Yank. “By that time the lad will be old and gray.” Michael’s eyes cut from her face to the hand she’d laid on his arm.” Cala gave him a soft smile. on that ya can be sure. He doesn’t know how to manage.” “I’ve never seen the need to be forgivin’ somethin’ that happened eight hundred years ago. We carry our sins from one life to another. unless we’re forgiven. and if ya remember our history.

” He tipped his head back and his arms lifted pleadingly to the ceiling.” Cala stepped forward into Michael’s space. but Cala turned before it could settle on the ridge. since the vote concernin’ Jack Wolfe was taken. however. needed a helluva lot more. Its song announced the hour to shift life’s modes from the workaday world to home and hearth. They voted for you with their whole heart.” Jack breathed the word into the soft breeze that stirred around him. He stretched his head back and stared at the labyrinth of twisted bare grapevines that hung on the lattice arbor overhead. not just yet. She’d know it soon enough. Then he made his way up into the loft of the cottage to check on Niall. he stood at her side for a long while. “Both Kaite and yarself were wantin’ more. “Fine. “They didn’t vote against you. In the distance. anyway. Jack’s the one. Inside the moonlit room. Michael. why didn’t I see it? Nay. She searched his face.” He reached out to rest his hand on her shoulder. Wasn’t that what all children needed? Cala. The ancient tune was right. “If like she said. but did he have the right to think of them as family? Niall needed protection and a chance at life. but did he have a right to have those feelings? He stood from the bench and waited a moment until the pain in his leg eased enough to walk. “Family. he’s nothin’ more than a cousin from America. the vesper bells called out.” “They voted with the foolishness of Kaite’s heart. but he refused to show her its full force.” Michael turned back to Cala. Jack couldn’t stop the heavy sigh that worked its way out. He was beginning to think of them that way. “Family. for ya’ll be bringin’ about the end to us all with yar foolish stubborn ways.” Michael moved to the window and searched the gray rolling clouds in the sky. Images of Niall and Cala filled his mind when he spoke the word. The air had a little nip to it but not enough to chase him off the garden bench. A gentle touch of twilight gilded the branches of the oak trees that filled the grove. “None in the family has. Mark this day well.” he repeated. He felt cocooned in the arch. They’d all know it.Michael kept the fury in his eyes as he answered. His anger boiled. It was time to think of family. When had her feelings become so important to him? He couldn’t deny that they were there. don’t take me serious. Jack moved inside his sweater. Silently. Jack 89 .

son. Conner’s urn sparkled and caught Jack’s attention. The boy seemed to be making up for all the sleep he’d lost. These last few days. Downstairs in the small parlor. With it came that same nagging question.smiled at how such a small boy could take up most of the bed. His gaze shifted to the house.” Jack whispered with a sigh. well. Now. Jack reached down and tucked the blankets around Niall’s shoulders. “Son. Jack needed to clear his mind before he settled in for the night. “Oiche mhaith. He ran a light finger across the boy’s forehead to brush back Niall’s hair. that was something only time could heal. The pain of grief he carried in his heart. A light flickered on in the kitchen window and ricocheted up into the trees. He hadn’t seen Cala all day and wondered if she wasn’t feeling well. Sleep would give Niall’s body a chance to repair the damage done to it this last year. He stepped back outside and let the sweet air cleanse his thoughts.” Jack said to the container. He moved to the table and brushed a finger over the cold metal. 90 . and then left the loft. “Oiche mhaith. son. if he could only find an answer. At least. The thought of family again scratched Jack’s mind like a thorn. Niall barely had enough energy to crawl into bed right after supper. that was the excuse he gave himself as he began walking up to the house.” Jack sighed.” he repeated in a ragged sigh. “Oiche mhaith. my son.

“I hadn’t seen you all day. and the way she punched at the bread dough. she brushed away a curl that twisted over her forehead. “Are you wantin’ somethin’?” Cala asked. “Warm bread is better for you. and a few patches speckled her beige slacks. It would have accommodated him easily enough. With the back of her floured hand. as he folded into the chair. “Come in. not looking up from the dough she kneaded at the kitchen table.” he said. She folded the dough and slammed the heels of her hands into it. “I was just wondering how you were.” Jack smiled. He decided to change the subject. he dipped his head. angling his head to get a better look at her face. The scrape of its wooden legs stirred sound through the silence. With it still pressed to his lips.” he stated. A cluster of lines had wedged between her dark eyebrows. he stared up at her face.Chapter 13 Jack knocked at the back door and waited for Cala to open it but instead. Jack strolled to the table and pulled out a chair. he turned back to watch how hard she tried to release her 91 . He used that time to look up into her face. told a far different story. for a moment at least. out of habit. He took a glass from the shelf and filled it from the tap. she only called out.” He ducked as he made his way through the doorway. White flour dusted the smooth wooden surface. “What are you making?” “Bread and a few rolls for Samhain. If he could see them.” Cala’s words were pleasant enough. she plummeted the heels of her hands into it. As he waited for a response. “I’m fine.” She tsked loudly. “Hot can cause all sorts of trouble with your insides. but the tone of her voice was sharp. hot homemade bread with melted butter is like nectar. thank you. Her chin remained tucked down to her chest so he couldn’t see her eyes. he knew they would tell him what was going on. so.” Folding the dough again.” Jack stood up and made his way to the sink. It was a futile effort because the hair refused to stay put and quickly fell back into her eyes. “Mmmm. but most doorways in Ireland hadn’t been designed for his height.

he didn’t want to protect her.” 92 .” Her eyes stayed locked with his. “Why?” he asked.” Cala shook her head. My feelin’s are somethin’ I’ve got to live with. He wanted to massage the tension from her shoulders. “Cala.” she answered. then turn her in his arms and kiss her until every angry thought was gone. When he stepped back to the table. “I’m not making fun of you. What was bringing her down? “Jack. and ’tis not fair to be makin’ fun of me. The fringe of dark lashes outlined more than just their blue color. “Then look at me. I’m a big girl. to keep her from hoping they could share more. I thought I’d kiss you. silky hair. Her body trembled and her shoulders sagged.” Jack said. He splashed the water back into the sink and set the glass down.” He stroked his thumb along her jaw line. Her skin was like satin and the moisture of her mouth begged him to take a taste. Her eyes swam in crystal blue pools of unshed tears. “No.” “Are you sure the same is still going to be good enough?” Cala dropped her gaze from his. “Because you already know how I’m feelin’ about you. placing his hand on her shoulder. Cala.” He turned her face up to his. The aroma of yeast and the scent of her mingled together to fill his senses. when are you going to look at me?” She pulled her head back and snorted softly. “’Tis not a thin’ wrong with your face that needs lookin’ at. then she said. “The same is all that I’ll ever have. “Why? Did you grow another nose?” Jack chuckled as a smile raced across his mouth. He’d only wanted to protect her from him. I’ve done a fair job so far. keeping her attention directed to the task of kneading. He only wanted her. don’t be askin’ me to do that. “You don’t have to be doin’ such for my sake. He leaned close to her ear and whispered. sending her fragrance out to attack him.emotions into the dough. Her mouth worked around soundless words for a moment. I can continue to do the same. he remained standing. His fingers tingled with the thought of threading through her dark. but I feel like I’ve grown something on my face that you can’t bare to look at right now. Looking into her eyes.

The feel of delicate lace and smooth satin against his fingertips made his hand tremble. “Jack. either. so much more. Blood thundered in his ears. A moan tore from her throat when his mouth moved from hers. oh Jack. letting her sample something she could never have? What would be worse.” Jack said against her lips. His hand slid under her sweater and captured her. but his desire for her pushed the thought aside. to have Cala. Not the moans that rose in her throat or the burning need she felt coiling inside her.” The words rang out in her head and tumbled out her 93 . the softness of her body pressed against the hard plains of his chest. when his tongue brushed hers. he deepened the kiss. but she didn’t help him. Cala had always loved him. As her fingers threaded through his hair. he slid his tongue into her mouth. She would always love him. he wasn’t sure who groaned with the pleasure. he moved them up over her ribs. you’re so beautiful. When his hands formed around her breasts. He felt it. She still wasn’t participating in the kiss. Why was God doing this to her. Had he crushed her heart so badly that she couldn’t take the chance of kissing him? Jack hoped that wasn’t so. and when she sighed. igniting the building fire inside him. Yet. When he released her breasts. He drew her bottom lip through his teeth. to feel. but he heard it. He needed more.” he said as his hands reached out and circled her slender waist. “Baby. Every nerve in his body screamed out and erased every thought but his need to taste.” Her head fell back and her heart opened. to love him once and to never again feel his touch? Would she have the courage to take this now and keep the memory of it through all those lonely tomorrows? Her heart answered. His mouth brushed against hers. She held nothing back. “God. and a shiver of delight rippled through her when he moved his mouth down her neck and stopped at the crest of her breast.Her cryptic words played against his mind for a moment. letting the sensation of her soft skin fill his mind. yes. he watched passion’s fire rising in her eyes. When she leaned into him. he stepped back. She fed his hunger with her own ravenous kisses. He tugged her sweater over her head and lowered his lips to the swell of her breast. Heat coiled out from her center and raced through her body. She didn’t fight him. His finger followed the line of kisses he trailed above the satin and lace. Slowly. you’re so sweet. “I love you.

” As a breeze brushed over her heated skin. “This was a bad idea anyway. “Baby.mouth.” She turned. 94 . she opened her eyes. but loving is more. This time around was no different from the last. we both want this.” Cala rolled out of his arms and tugged her sweater over her head. her heart sank and tears flooded her eyes. I’m not exactly sure how much of that I can give. There was a strained look on his face as he spoke. Commitments have a way of gettin’ in the way.” she repeated behind closed eyes.” A shiver racked through her as she added. When she heard him turn through the door. Right now. placed her palms on the back of the chair and squeezed the wood. “I’ve loved you since love’s first sigh. wanting and loving are different things. “I love you. “I’ve no way of separatin’ them. much more.

” he whispered.” Jack took wide strides and folded down slowly next to Niall in the soft grass. and we better put the cover back so we don’t spook them.” Jack said as he rolled to his feet. He felt the bruise that grief had left on his heart. Once he stretched his leg comfortably behind him. Conner. he lifted the patch of dried grass. “Are ya a farmer or a cowboy in America to be knowin’ so much about the animals?” “No.” Jack laughed. Niall raced by. laughing as he chased after a rabbit running over the stretch of grass. ya’re lyin’ now. “Yes. Peter.. It infiltrated his mind to wreak havoc with his thoughts. “Oh. A question was written in the lines he pushed onto his forehead. Jack thought of Rebecca. no bigger than mice. why would he have chosen this particular time? This life? Who was he supposed to help. The afternoon had warmed. If Cala was right and we choose to make the journey back. This small isle held more magic in it than the fairy tales he’d told Conner. or. Just then. Inside were three tiny rabbits. Was the future he tasted on Cala’s lips real? “I’ve found its nest!” Niall called out. “Don’t touch them or the mother might never come back. there isn’t much of a difference. himself. “Mother’s are nay like that.” Niall said with a tsk. until the morning he felt Kaite’s spirit all around him. “But I was lucky to have a father who loved nature and took me for long walks through the forest preserves. look how tiny they are. They squirmed and squealed when daylight touched them.” Niall chuckled. “Och. “Animals or people. he had his choices made.” Jack answered. replacing the grass mat. Niall inched his face closer to the hole. but the confusion that reigned in Jack’s mind was hard and cold and refused to be washed away by sunshine. Jack smiled at the sweet sound of the boy’s laughter. Less than a week ago.? Jack shook his head with disbelief. but he didn’t feel the draw of the dark plain as strong lately. just so I won’t be pickin’ up the babes. They wouldn’t be desertin’ their young for no reason a’tall. Niall turned his face up to Jack. Jack lifted the small mat a little higher to give Niall a peek inside. Everything was outlined perfectly. 95 .Chapter 14 Jack watched with a careful eye as Niall stood near the edge of a ridge overlooking a newly turned field..

Dusk crawled slowly over the distant hills as Jack and Niall made their way through the narrow winding streets to the Samhain celebration. but he knows of a few forests that have deer and rabbits in them that aren’t far from his home.” “Do ya think he’d take me to the place time and again like yar da did ya?” The bitter taste of self-contempt swirled in Jack’s mouth. Jack’s skin crawled with self-contempt. What if he truly did feel Kaite’s spirit that morning? What if Cala was right about the different dimensions? Could Peter still see what was going on? What if? What if? Suddenly. he called her a selfish bitch. 96 . he got down on his knees and begged her not to have an abortion.” Jack had no idea where that memory came from. All he wanted to do was give Peter what the boy needed to make that journey into the dark plain. He rolled to his feet and offered his hand to Niall. Now he had to face up to himself. Niall smiled up at Jack. and Jack quickly returned the smile. Jack agreed. he remembered his father often. All sorts of other questions shot through his mind. with one stipulation. and though his skin was leathery from the sun. He was a hypocrite. it knew exactly how to take one’s memory back to happier times. whichever. The boy slid his hand inside Jack’s. Some of the houses sat close to the road. but when she walked out the door. Now his words were coming back to bite him in the ass. Jack had to admit the memories he’d touched while in Ireland didn’t hurt. she’d be free. “Does Father Tim have a house in the forest?” Niall asked. He suddenly realized that he was worse than Rebecca. He knew damn well that he wasn’t going to keep the promise he made to Peter. while others had room enough in front for a flower garden or two. Magical or mystical. It was an easy cop-out. Jack couldn’t lie to himself any longer. Sure. “No. his hands were gentle. He saw his father’s hand and his own twenty years ago. Together they made their way back down the hillside. Jack looked at the joined pair. Maybe this is what Kaite meant when she said the land was their soul. When she told him she was pregnant. She agreed. Jack was worse. but he hadn’t thought about the strength in those big hands for a long time. and doing it turned his stomach. It had to be this place.He worked for the park district. Once the baby was born.

they met up with a young family of four. but he didn’t seem to mind it a’tall. “’Tis the night he’ll be named. Jack looked at the infant resting in the rook of its father’s arm. The flood of light stretched high into the slate colored sky and fell onto the rows of tables piled high with food and decorations. Tom chuckled before answering. they looked as if they’d been plucked right out of the pages of a story about ancient Ireland. Jack smiled at the little girl. as she patted the food-stuffed basket hooked over her arm. Jack couldn’t help but smile.” The group carried their laughter over the hill but when they reached the crest. of no more than five. Our li’l one will be part of the ritual. Most already wore a new coat of winter whitewash.These older buildings were long and narrow with tight walkways between them. and children 97 .” “Ya mean the babe didn’t have a name all this time?” Niall asked. Niall took the flower and tucked it into his pocket. setting the locks of her blond hair bouncing. “Are ya lookin’ forward to all the food we’ll be servin’?” Ellen O’Dea asked Niall. She tugged on his shirt and offered him one of the flowers she’d picked. “Don’t be a stoppin’ and pickin’ flowers now.” Niall answered. The little girl quickly raced to catch up to Niall. toothless grin. As they made their way through the gravel streets. Below. “Aye. The child quickly offered Jack a wide. Daligherat.” Tom O’Dea said with a smile and quick pat on the bottom of the baby he held in the rook of his arm. I’ve never been to a Samhain celebration before. The musicians were just tuning up. as long as we knew who it was when he bellowed out. the view pulled Jack to a stop. Dressed in period costumes. Niall was quick to point out the baskets left on the doorsteps for the spirits that would be walking the earth tonight. “Aye. flaming torches stood around the stone circle to form a huge glowing ball. Her daughter. “’Tis even a more special time for us. “We’ve chosen this special time with all present to share in our celebration. stretching out his short legs to keep up with the adults. “What kinda ritual?” Jack asked. Without a word. with another pat on the baby’s bottom.” Tom answered. skipped at her side. returning the baby’s smile.” Ellen called out to her daughter. and she was quick to return his smile.

” Jack answered with a shake of his head. You really do go all out for this holiday. Twice he’d hurt her. you people really know how to throw a party. “And everyone looks great in their Halloween costumes. “And are you excited about all this.” “’Tis the most beautiful spot in all of Tirnageata. isn’t it?” Tom asked. drab ruins he’d visited with Cala that morning seemed so long ago. So ’tis a twofold celebration. making more a statement than a question. “Damn. “It’s what Americans call Samhain. Her blue eyes radiated with excitement. She looked beautiful and regal. this is also the beginnin’ of our New Year. A gold filigree crown sat atop her head. dipping her face to the child. but I’ve gotta tell you. Before Jack could stop him. it’s nothing like this. don’t you?” “Accordin’ to the old calendar. more to Niall than to Jack. The moment they reached the edge of the party. smiling at the baby. She locked her spine and hitched up her chin. my lil’ one?” she asked.” Jack answered as he restarted his steps. there must be hundreds of people here. “Maybe you should wait with that?” “A celebration is to be enjoyed.dressed as in the days of yore were already playing games and laughing.” Cala said.” “Threefold. she wouldn’t allow a third time. He smiled at her. but her braided hair was more intricately woven than a Celtic knot. cold. but she never returned it. “What do you think of Samhain?” she asked. exchanging her basket for the baby in her husband’s arms. “You got that right. Jack turned to the crowd. “Jesus.” Ellen corrected. but the verbal putdown he’d planned got tangled up with his tongue. and the way she looked down the ridge of her nose. Jack slashed his eyes at her. slaps of welcome started hitting Jack’s back. clearly defining what was really on her mind. ’tis that indeed. Every woman they passed greeted him with a kiss and an offer to fix a plate of food for him and Niall. dark blue dress was simple. Niall latched onto a few sweets.” Cala said stiffly as she took Niall’s side of the argument. “Aye. Her long. 98 . Jack had a difficult time believing he was at the same strange.” “Halloween?” Niall questioned.

These last few weeks. The Samhain celebration is for all of us. so don’t be thinkin’ that I’m a fool. Pretending to be engrossed in the crowd. but the family outvoted me. I don’t have to like ya to get this over with. I don’t need yar help this time around. with Jack and Niall following in her wake. “Don’t be like that. he pivoted on his heels and made a break for the thickest part of the crowd. “I was against invitin’ ya to a celebration ya’ll nay understand. how about we make a deal? I won’t think you’re an asshole if you don’t act like one.The baby squirmed in its mother’s arms and gave out a sharp giggle that had everyone joining in. Whaddaya say?” As Jack nodded to a passing old man weighted down with a case of beer.” Jack sent his lining smile at Michael and set in a long pause before answering. Jack knew the exact moment Michael got the drift of what he’d proposed. Michael. I’m willing to accept you. she greeted each person with a special hello that assured Jack she was undeniably the queen of Clan Donegal. Cala was the first to move on. “Funny. we’ll avoid any possibility of that bad karma shit. As she drifted from table to table. Michael’s eyes flickered with an answer.” Michael jerked his arm free and turned on his heel. I thought you all believed in that stuff. I’m here because I must and so are ya. Michael took a step to the left and lined a hard glare over his shoulder at Jack. “Sure. Jack was met with veritable revulsion from Michael’s eyes. the guy ran hot and cold faster than a faucet. “Listen. Cala latched onto his arm. So as long as ya’re here.” Michael’s eyes snapped wide as he sucked in a jagged breath. With a cautious smile. and for this one night. When they reached Michael’s table. “This way. Jack refused to go through another night of pretense. because Michael’s eyes narrowed and his lips disappeared. “Karma?” Jack was surprised at the shocked look on Michael’s face. if you’ll do the same. 99 . Instead. but he refused to follow through with it. We’re related. I’ll ask that ya keep away from me. he nonchalantly stepped up to Michael.” “We all know what this is really about.” Jack said through a sarcastic chuckle. Before he could take off.” Jack said with a shrug of his shoulders. Jack said through a tight smile.

I can’t understand why he hates me so much. “We’ll be takin’ him in for questionin’.” “Oh.” Ellen called as she pushed her way through the crowd. has gotten me 100 . Jack forced himself to walk slowly forward. “We’ll find out down at the station. Jack held his anger in check and calmly asked. Jack tore off after Ellen but passed her when he saw the circle of policemen. he can get worse. he’s only ten years old. “Officer. There’s trouble. “Ya’re wrong.” “Have you ever met someone you instantly disliked?” “Yeah. I guess. He couldn’t be a part of a gang. carefully placing her hand on Niall’s shoulder. I’m from County Cork. “Is there something I can help you with. and my employer. Officer?” The short.Jack moved up to Cala’s side.” “Jack. “We’ve reason to believe this lad is part of a street gang that bombed a pub in Belfast. look at this boy.” Cala said.” Niall cried out while fighting against the burly policeman’s tight grip. Barrister Gerard O’Connor.” “Well. Jack watched as the crowd swallowed Michael up. resisting the urge to slam his fist into the policeman’s fat face. Without a question. come quick. “Ten or twenty.” Niall dug in his heels. “That man is a time bomb waiting to go off. round uniformed officer lifted his eyes to Jack. Or was that the explosion?” he asked on a long exhaling breath. that’s what we call a past life memory. so you’re saying that Michael hates me because of my past life?” Cala dropped her gaze to the ground and tucked her chin to her chest as she answered. “No.” The six uniformed policemen followed in a tight line like a procession of regimental guards. these types are as dangerous as adders.” he cried while his eyes frantically screamed out to Jack for help. “I’m not knowin’ anyone by the name of Nugent. “For the life of me. I’m nay the boy ya’re lookin’ for.” the officer answered while keeping a vice grip on Niall’s small arm.” A thinner officer stepped out of the group and glared hard at Cala. but he couldn’t stop the officer from dragging him along. “No. “You can’t question the boy without his guardian present. Instead.” Cala replied while shaking her head. his.

what’s happened.temporary guardianship.” the last man in the line shouted over Niall’s cries. “No.” Cala stopped. Call 353 (0) 55-5555. Use their phone. Ask him what we should do.” Cala protested while racing after the line of men. “Good.” Jack slashed his gaze down to Cala. hoping that her eyes would confirm his statement. “You can ride down to the station with us. take my car and drive to the pub. Barrister Gerard O’Connor. everything will be all right. The hard lines in her face left no room for discussion. “Don’t worry Niall.” “Okay. Explain to my employer. 101 . I’ll come too. Jack double-timed it up the rise to catch up with the group.” Jack looked over Cala’s head and shouted.

“Could ya be so kind as to call Officer Dumback back and ask him to brin’ me client with him?” Gerard slapped the papers on the desk directly under Heeney’s nose. but the young uniformed policeman behind the desk had already provided it. “Can tell by the cut of yar clothes ya’re the American. After releasing Jack’s hand.” he said. he checked out everyone in the room with one sweep of his gaze. Could you be callin’ out whomever ’tis that’s in charge of the O’Donnell case?” The officer looked down the sharp line of his nose and slowly reached for the phone. ya better brin’ that kid with ya. he stepped up to the high desk. sticking his short.” 102 . with small streaks of gray hair brushing at his temples.” Jack accepted the offered hand and liked the no-nonsense way about the man. the short man opened his briefcase and rifled through the papers. yes. He looked to be around forty. Behind his gray eyes was someone who knew his way around a police station. and he knew how to use it.” Gerard smiled and began to back away but stopped. wide hand out to Jack. the blond-haired Heeney replaced the phone in its cradle. When he entered the police station. “Oh. but they still gave him the indisputable appearance of a professional. His size matched the persona he presented to the world.” Gerard said. we’ll have the lad free quick enough. and then he made a beeline to Jack. the young officer said. Heeney narrowed his green eyes as he reached for the paper. Gerard’s confidence spoke volumes about his personality. “Dumback. The moment he began inspecting the document. Heeney. “Heeney. stepping back up to the desk. his hand jerked for the phone. Without lifting his eyes from the desk. After a few words into the receiver.Chapter 15 Barrister Gerard O’Connor came into the station like an enraged bull. “Don’t worry. “Officer Dumback will be out shortly. He had a complete knowledge of law. Officer…” Jack wanted to supply the name. His clothes were causal enough for that time of night.” “Yes. “I beg yar pardon. With stapled papers in hand.

but if all be known. He’s a mite known in these parts for his hard-nosed attitude against barristers.Officer Heeney paused.” Jack released his breath. but he wasn’t listening to what the party on the other end of the line was saying. During the hour drive back to Tirnageata. Jack had sat in the waiting room for over two hours before Gerard arrived. Gerard sliced his glance hard and clean right up at Jack. you’re all that Cala said you’d be. so all I did was ask for some help. Gerard held his smile and slowly nodded his head. The man was sittin’ at me table playin’ poker. The young officer’s eyes widened even further as he ordered into the phone. “No. When they dropped off Gerard at his home. ya better be doin’ it now!” Gerard stepped away from the desk and took a seat on the bench next to Jack. Suddenly. Gerard looked up and smiled. Yet. The rest of us poor devils don’t even have the right to kiss the hem of her skirt. no less. a guardian angel. so the favors are pilin’ up. Jack tried to verbalize his gratefulness. Heeney’s eyes widened while he tapped his long finger near the bottom of the page. narrow black road ahead. Within minutes of the barrister’s arrival. it was over. Niall slept with his head nestled on Cala’s lap. “What the hell was that all about?” Jack asked. Jack tried to filter through his thoughts. Cala was an angel. I’ve taken many a pound from him. his gaze shot up to Gerard’s face. He continued to study the paper. while the three adults made arrangements for him to leave for America as soon as possible.” “You bribed a judge?” Jack whispered. that one’s an angel herself. the man plays cards like shit. but all he could do was offer his hand and a heartfelt thank you. Gerard was right. “’Tis nothin’ a’tall but the signature of one of the judges in Belfast. “Gerard. 103 . he wouldn’t take an easy breath until Niall was safely out of the country. As he watched the headlights of Cala’s car scratch the winding. “’Twas no bribe.” Jack nodded in agreement. Jack felt comfortable knowing that things were somewhat outlined.” “Aye. slashing his gaze around the room.

“You didn’t. Then he remembered the words she’d spoken to him at the cottage.Overhead. trying to keep the tremble out of his voice. “If you choose to go back. to see him smile. Jack rounded the car to help carry the sleeping Niall up to the cottage. icy fingers.” he answered with a smile. “Tomorrow is always hard to face. At times the pain is so unbearable. The night was made for thinking. the full moon spread its blue-gray light across the sky. “I’ve loved you since love’s first sigh. He did want a lifetime of tomorrows. Every moment that passes. but the delicate light caught the distant look in her eyes. “and I’ll love you forever after. clear idea. Shadows swallowed up her face but his mind knew every striking feature. but Jack’s thoughts were too confused for him to break out with even one good. Why can’t you see that?” Cala’s statement startled Jack. Again.. He had a forever now. “Life isn’t meant to be easy. Did he really want tomorrow? Could he face life? Suddenly the realization of his feelings hit him hard. but now the word ‘love’ softened it. He knew that all his tomorrows were going to be difficult to face. to hear him call me daddy just one more time. “No one understands what pain really is until you lose a child. I ache to hold him in my arms.” she had said. but when it comes. When he opened the car door. Murky clouds brushed past the moon’s face like Conner no longer needs you.. all I can think about is ending it.” The word ‘forever’ had struck him hard. but none touched down on the earth. she’d read his thoughts. we don’t get a free ride. He couldn’t remember how many times the image of her eyes broke into his mind. but this time he didn’t mind the intrusion. Being in Ireland just a few short days had completely turned his life around. a moonbeam cascaded over Cala’s upturned face. but Niall does. Her smile was warm.” Cala’s calm voice wrapped around Jack like the comforting arm of a friend. so you must realize you’re not finished on this plain.” she said. you needn’t feel like you’re desertin’ your son as Rebecca did. only because of her.” 104 . we realize that our fears weren’t near as bad as we thought. because of her love. Cala’s lips turned up a wide smile. “Aye.” Jack said.

She looked exhausted. We leave tomorrow. Cala turned her lips to his. “No. but didn’t follow through with the kiss. The sweet taste of her forgiveness gently carried him to that place called love.” he whispered. His hand reached in and cupped her face.” Cala smiled her answer before shifting to help Jack take Niall from the car. as soon as the passports come from Gerard’s office. but Niall said he didn’t mind.” Her eyes lit up with the smile that was already in place.” The choice to go back with Niall had come somewhere between the horrified look in the boy’s eyes when the police dragged him away and the moment Niall slipped his hand into Jack’s while walking out of the police station. Her declaration pulled a hard sigh from Jack’s chest.not ever. “She cared. “She cares. The look in her eyes took him deep into her soul. The decision didn’t come in a barrage of lightening bolts. looks like we’re a team.. Jack rather liked having the boy stay with him. He didn’t want to stop kissing her.. Actually. that’s all. He felt the coolness of her hand cradle his chin before her mouth moved from his.” Cala whispered. Jack helped Niall climb the steps up to the loft. Inside the cottage. then?” Niall asked in a heavy whisper. it quietly slid into place like 105 . “I think you need some sleep. “‘Thin’s are all arranged.” but his kiss did the translating. She was the one he’d love until the end of time. Instead. His heart whispered the words “I love you. “Yeah. He lifted his hand to the back of her head and held her in place while his mouth met hers. “Then I’m nay makin’ the trip alone?” Jack brushed back Niall’s hair from his forehead. “I think Niall needs to be helped up to bed.” Jack smiled down at the sleeping boy then looked back up into Cala’s face.” Niall’s eyes narrowed. too. The softness of her lips made him hunger for more. “I think I heard that before. “That screamin’ banshee wasn’t too nice. was she?” Jack leaned in and brushed a kiss on her cheek.Jack crouched to bring his eyes level with hers. somewhere. Dark shadows hung under her eyes. The space was tight. He needed the love she gave him so that his tomorrows would be easier to face.

106 . Tim was right. but more important. Just like his love for Cala had. Jack had been guided here to find love. The realization he loved her brought the absolution he’d sought. but he had been too full of self-pity to see it.the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. or at least reasons for each experience we face. Jack was sent here to find himself and Niall. He realized that he’d loved her from the beginning. there was a master plan.

Chapter 16 After tucking the boy under the covers. damp air and watched how the grazing moonlight shimmered over the water’s black surface. chewing up the distance with tremendous speed. happy memories of Conner danced in his mind. but Jack knew wherever they were would be the right place. His knee throbbed from the climb. blue-gray face. Jack carefully opened the urn.” As Jack stood staring out into the black velvet night. “Goodbye. This is where his son belonged. A huge cluster of dark clouds fingered the sky. He could see Conner’s smile. Opening his eyes. The heavy weight of grief strangled his heart. Conner would’ve loved every inch of this place. The darkness made it difficult to see where the wispy fragments fell. The soft sound of the sea brushing gentle kisses on the shore was like a lullaby. Jack noticed something skimming along the beach. “Oiche mhaith. Jack carefully turned the urn over and sprinkled Conner’s ashes over the rocks below. Was a storm rolling in? No. A large black shadow raced along the water’s edge. and smell the sweet scent of his hair. Jack stood on a ledge halfway up the hillside and looked out over the dark sea. and Jack listened until the sound had completely fallen away. He carefully lifted Conner’s urn from the table and cradled it in his arms like a child. It was the same black stallion he’d seen in the grove. Moonlight grazed over the animal’s back and glistened through its long mane and tail as it raced along the water’s line. There was only one thing left to do. and it had to be done tonight. good night. my son. It ran as if something had frightened it. he hugged the urn to his heart as he swayed in place. giving a strange definition to the rocky shoreline below. He drew in a long breath of the cold. but the pain was now a hallmark to the decision he’d reached. “Slan agat. Then he blew a kiss and said. Jack went downstairs. hear his laughter. my son. Midnight shadows shifted across the moon’s full. While wrapped in memories. Suddenly. A single splash echoed.” he whispered. Closing his eyes. but he drew strength from the fact that he now understood it. Jack’s eyes snapped up to the charcoal heavens.” Jack whispered as he tossed the empty urn to the sea. the formation twisted and turned as it congealed into a 107 .

Instead. Jack saw a young man outstretched on the altar. As it moved. he couldn’t stop staring at the formation as it slowly spiraled and rolled in the sky. his knee screamed for him to stop. Before he could scramble away. was the hooded figure of a woman. At last. giving him a clear view and pathway into the center. Then. The thundering beats of his heart matched the pounding of his feet as he raced over the black field. “Guide him into the dark plain!” When the woman dropped her arms. it drew back into the sky and stretched itself across the full moon. The cloud’s arm arched once again. Skipping over the distant boulders. he was frozen to the rocks. Jack continued running until he reached the edge of the human circle. but Jack refused to listen. Then. and nothing was going to stop him. Instantly. the hood fell back off the woman’s head and the shout lodged in his throat. For a long time. As he ran. Like a huge pointing finger. There. he turned in place to keep it in his sight. Cala’s flowing black hair cascaded over her shoulders like a cape. the final rise fell away and he saw it. the cloud hung above the celebration. he saw the blazing lights from the Samhain celebration reaching up into the sky. it arced itself and swooped over the uneven surface just below Jack’s feet. His blond hair glinted in the candlelight. it reached down to rocks where Conner’s ashes had fallen. The candles’ flames sent a thousand glittering points of 108 . Jack’s heart pushed hard against his ribs. she cried out in Gaelic to the heavens.thick cylinder shape. it hovered over the fanning light. Michael! What the hell was going on? Just as Jack was about to scream out. in the distance. standing at the base of a stone altar. With her arms lifted high to the sky. It held Jack mesmerized as the large black form coiled across the sky. but this time it didn’t dip down. Stunned into a near catatonic state. like the finger of God. stood silently watching something in the center of the gathering. each holding a lit candle. layers of people. he charged over the field. Then his mind splintered and he began clawing the rest of the way up the rocky hillside until he reached the high flat ground. It immediately parted. He had to be there when that cloud came down. Inside the stone circle.

For some reason. He threw punch after punch. Michael flatly repeated Cala’s question. Jack struggled to feel pity. finally. The total carnage left in Michael’s wake as his soldiers killed innocents in their beds. Each fist Jack slammed into Michael’s jaw only added to the pain in Jack’s heart. Michael rolled off the altar and folded to the ground at her side. Michael fought back but not with strength. as he was about to squeeze the last breath from Michael’s throat. When he reached the couple. Michael turned to Jack. His body shook with rage.” Michael said to Cala. A thick smell of heavy smoke filled his lungs and then the distant screams swelled in his ears. his wife. but nothing surfaced. “I have forgiven him. Her pain dug into Jack’s heart. Immediately. Suddenly it all became clear.Anna. he pulled Cala into his arms and comforted her with both his words and his hands. OH. but splintering visions flashed in his mind. As he 109 . each one slower than the other until. There was a small cloud of defiance in his eyes. Something invisible was pulling Jack to them.. Together they rolled over the ground. he stopped. With his hands locked around Michael’s neck.. GOD! Cala was the woman in his dreams.light to dance over the ebony satin. completely unaware he was moving.. Jack understood it all now. A blur of the blood-soaked ground raced beneath his running feet. Jack saw it all. Will you?” Cala asked through her tearclogged throat. demanding his fingers to finish what he’d started. He walked forward. Rage took over his mind.. women and children littered the ground. Instead. Cala slowly lifted her face out of her hands. Michael’s words ignited Jack’s anger and the veil of darkness ripped open in his mind. Jack stopped.. “Forgive me. but instead of looking at Michael. the heat of his revenge died away and Jack leapt to his feet. Jack bellowed his pain into the night.JESUS CHRIST. When she lifted her hands to cover her tears. Her narrow body rocked with the force of her mournful cries and sent her to her knees. Michael. she turned and cut her gaze at Jack. Then the acid taste of death filled his mouth. Mangled bodies of men.Michael was the Lord Harrison! Suddenly. Jack shook with rage. and he lunged at Michael.. He looked at her. Instead.

” Turning to the altar. “Tirnageata. “Now it is finished.” She turned to Jack and said. With her arms wide to the ebony sky. “Come!” 110 . We call those spirits to join our celebration and share in the blessin’. Cala stepped forward and faced the gathering. but there was none left. He closed his eyes and pushed out the last of his hatred with a ragged breath. Jack wanted to hate. ‘the gate’.” Then Cala’s voice exploded into a single thunderous. Share the joy of our love and the triumph of forgiveness. she cried out. “You’ve released a soul from eternal torment with your gift of forgiveness. It coiled and twisted as if anxiously waiting its turn. she raised her hands to the black cloud.glared down at Michael’s red face. is open for all who wait in the dark plain for rebirth. Come! Come share this night with us. and for this we share in the blessin’ with you.

Jack’s heart split and tears raced down his face. 111 . tear-filled smile. From its center. He. It was green. “Peter. The closer she moved. “Kaitlan!” Cala called out. Jack knew the boy understood every unspoken word and he was shocked by the hand’s warmth. had died from eating grass to fill their empty stomachs. when his parents walked out. while his mother quickly wrapped her arms around her son’s waist. all frail and gaunt. Yet. boy-o. A light cracked open its black center.” his mother said with a wide. Jack’s father confirmed his wife’s declaration. Out of the pure white blinding light moved the tattered old woman and small boy who’d been walking the road the day Jack arrived. Jack saw the frightened boy from the field. The line of arrivals continued to grow until the stone circle was filled. “I’ve asked to come back with yar family so I could thank ya for keepin’ yar promise.” Jack whispered. the cloud reached down and touched the ground.” Jack’s answer locked in his closed throat. Jack reluctantly unwound from his parents to look up into the sky. his parents filled the silence. then said. Still holding on to each other. “We’ve missed ya. The trail of visitors waned to the point of just a few still moving through the light. a blond teenaged boy moved forward. the clearer she—and what she carried—came into focus. Yet. His father’s big weathered hand swallowed up Jack’s. He couldn’t move as they came to him. Jack’s heart ached. Cala’s voice brought their heads around. As the line continued. It cracked wider. These were the ones the songwriters didn’t write about. Jack couldn’t take his eyes off the bright light. They died in the silence of the famine. when Peter offered his hand. As tears clogged Jack’s throat. Everyone stopped and watched her as she moved forward. the look of starvation still in their eyes. filling the heavens with light. like so many victims of the famine. out of the circle.Chapter 17 At that moment. Now the bright light clearly showed the stain around his mouth. Wrapping both his wife and Jack in a huge hug. The teenager stepped to Jack’s side and stopped. Behind her came a file of men. Kaite slowly stepped out. his clothes tattered and his eyes still filled with fear. They didn’t die in the noise of battle. Then. women and children.

“Daddy. Jack took one small step then another until he was racing across the distance that spanned them. For a stretched out moment.” “The family is at last all together. His beautiful son was here. Kaite stopped and set Conner’s small feet to the ground. Tears washed down Jack’s face and with them came all the pain and grief in his heart. “The blessin’ has once again been given to the Donegal Clan.” Kaite said with a smile.Suddenly Jack’s breath congealed in his lungs. After a few steps. “I love you too.” Jack used all his strength to keep from crushing his son to him. “Daddy. Conner cupped Jack’s face with his small hands and looked hard into Jack’s tear-filled eyes. Jack fell to his knees. the boy stood still. Conner.” 112 . I love you.” Jack bellowed to the heavens as he squeezed his son to his heart. The feel of Conner’s small body in his arms tore a cry from Jack’s heart that echoed through the hills. “Daddy. don’t cry. When he reached his son. he released a ragged sigh and answered. His knees buckled and he gasped for a breath when he saw Conner’s small. Light danced through his blond hair and shimmered in his blue eyes. smiling face. and his heart burst inside his chest. to them and to this special land where the gate between plains will forever be guarded by us. his eyes locked with Jack’s. He opened his arms and wrapped them around his son.” Conner repeated and stretched out his small arms to Jack. Instead. forgive me. “Dear God.” the tiny voice called out like a roar in the silence.

the Donegal gift proved that love’s higher vibrations transcended all plains and religions. Jack could feel sadness layering over the gathering. As gatekeepers.” The pink-edged clouds were already beginning to cut into the dawn’s slate-colored sky as Jack and Cala stood alone in the center of the stone circle.” Jack now understood the importance of this land and the role his family played in it. The dark plain is nothin’ more than a dimension that you can’t see. this woman loved with every fiber in her body. “Oiche mhaith. “Good night. “Would you be likin’ the complete story?” Cala asked.Chapter 18 As the time neared for the spirits to leave. deep breath. just like the vow they’d made so long ago. The sweet scent of his son still wafted around him and Jack closed his eyes to draw in a long. like the waves of a television or radio. Tonight. A tear squeezed out from the corner of his eye. my son. Conner lifted his small hand and blew Jack a kiss. The cool love-filled nights they shared in each other’s arms. she’d been his wife. and he remembered. they lifted the veil between worlds for that one magical hour each year and shared in the love the dark plain brought with it. In that other time. “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love. Peter smiled at Jack before stepping into the line that was already fading into the black cloud. 113 . Tirnageata is the gate and the Donegal family has the key. The memories linger in his mind. Less than an hour ago. and parents held their children tighter to them. Husbands and wives silently stared into each other’s eyes. The warm sun-filled days they worked side by side in the fields. When she reached the rim that divided the two plains. “You mustn’t cry. Jack happily gave his son over to the dark plain. the memories of their life came flooding back. and his mother reached up and brushed it aside. When Kaite reached out her arms for the child.” Love. Jack thought as his gaze shifted to the soft contours of Cala’s face. she stopped and turned back to Jack. Sophocles said it best. Jack’s parents were next and Kaite followed. As Anna or Cala.” Jack said on a ragged whisper. Jack thought. Jack kissed Conner’s head and drew in the sweet scent of his son. me son.

one soul. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose hoping to squeeze some of the anger out.” Jack looked beyond the stones to where the tender light of morning touched the trees.” Jack answered with hesitation. but when he turned to Cala and watched her eyes cloud with tears. “She lived longer than most for that time. but I think so.” Cala said.” Jack lifted Cala’s chin and looked into the shimmering blue pools of her eyes. His breath hitched before he could add. She wiped a trailing tear before giving her answer to his chest. It was his own guilt eatin’ at his heart that pushed him out onto that edge.” 114 .” Jack kept the ache of grief from touching his heart by remembering this was only a memory.“I’m not sure. “She’d lost the child the day of the massacre. almost reassuring him she’d be there to help make the trip easier. but we Donegals know the truth. He stroked the back of her head until her tears ebbed. Pushing aside the lump in his throat. “Michael was more than a bastard in that life. “She never remarried. “On the fifth anniversary of the Donegal massacre. “They were truly one heart. many a woman carried his seed. “Anna Donegal Keane was taken prisoner by Lord Harrison himself and remained his captive until he returned to Wales. Some say he’d gone into a melancholy over the accidental death of his sixteenyear old son. letting the corners of her mouth tilt downward. he asked.” The fear of hearing the answer tempered his driving need to know. She kept her vows to Colin and the old ways as she passed the traditions down to her niece.” Cala slowly shook her head. He took pleasure in usin’ both the people and the supplies he’d captured during the slaughter.” Some residue of rage simmered in Jack’s blood. “What happened to Anna after Lord Harrison left Ireland?” Cala kept her cheek pressed to his shoulder. Tenderly. “And the child she carried. “Records state that for one year. Lord Harrison jumped to his death from the parapets of his castle in Wales. “What about Anna?” Jack asked. his wounds reopened. Did he want to touch the pain-filled memory of that horrific night again? Cala patted his arm. Lord Harrison remained in Donegal Castle.” Cala sighed and continued the recounting. he wrapped her in his arms while her body racked with silent sobs. By the time he left.

He scraped the passion from his voice and asked. His lips trailed a line down her throat to the thundering pulse in the hollow of her neck. that would truly be a blessin’. Kaite could tell us just by lookin’ in our faces. Jack ran his hand down the back of her head and watched the tenderness of her love rise into her eyes. When his gaze came back to hers. He pulled back and pressed her head to his shoulder. he would’ve thought this was pure Irish bull. but the look in her eyes begged him to take what was once his. Not here. Yesterday. He dipped his head and gently touched his lips to hers. she would trust him enough to erase all that fear. “Whose decision was it to get Michael and me together?” Cala smiled.” When Cala looked up into his face. a dot of fear still hovered in the crystal blue centers of her eyes.” He felt his brow crinkle. he saw a small shadow of fear shimmering just below the rip tide of passion. “How do you know all this? Does everyone here have the ability to remember their past lives?” Cala released a single soft laugh. he’d believe anything that referenced the magic of this place. With time. but you never have. and he wouldn’t add to it. and then. Her mouth invited his kiss. but I just didn’t want you to be lookin’ at me with a disgust in your eyes when you learned the whole of it. she knew the time had finally come to clear the path for Michael’s soul. Michael’s returned many a time. but after what had just happened.” Jack repeated the name with a smile. so that was easy enough. “Puca?” Jack asked. pulling down his brow. “Have there been other lives when Michael and I’ve met?” He asked the question more for something to help draw them back than the desire to know. ’Twas Kaite that did the tellin’. ’Twas a sign that the time had come. “Nay. “Now when 115 .” Cala said with her eyes lowered.His hand trembled as he cupped her chin. Suddenly. her body and his need to possess it all. What we didn’t know. Not like this. the apparition that came to you your first night here. “Och.” She dropped her gaze from Jack’s. His need rippled through his body while his blood hammered in his ears. the black stallion. “Kaite said that when she looked upon your face as a child. She had the gift of second sight. the story of Anna and Colin Keane is history in these parts. “Aye.” “Colin Keane. “The mornin’ you told me about the puca confirmed it. there was nothing but her mouth. She was afraid.

Hell. They might not think chasing Niall down in America is worth all the bother. either. but if we stay here. but her eyes reflected the pain that was in her heart.” “You know that’s impossible.” he said. for ’twas you he wronged more than any other. “Oh.” Jack walked to her and turned her in his arms. Her voice trembled. “Are you saying now that I know the truth. He leveled out his anger. the fear didn’t hide. and Anna. his soul will be havin’ the chance to move up to a higher plain.” She placed her hand over Jack’s heart. easy smile to ease her fears. I can never return. “I’m sayin’ because you must go back to America. When the authorities get wind of Niall’s disappearance. She twined her arms around his neck. I understand. “Well. I can’t take that chance. they’re gonna put two and two together and come up with Jack Wolfe. He opened his eyes and hooked his finger under her chin to lift her face to his. I should apologize. you mean you wouldn’t like to go with me to America. but he couldn’t erase the curtness in his voice. A line of tears tracked down her cheeks and splashed onto his hand. but their depth assured him that this wasn’t some game she was playing.” 116 . We’ve no future together. “I know. “But not Ireland.Michael passes on. rolling it in a thick layer of confusion.” Jack released the pent up sigh. The passion that had lay dormant for so many centuries was now charging through his veins.” Jack narrowed his eyes. He squeezed his eyes closed and tightened his arm around Cala’s waist. offering a small. The memory of how he’d lay drowning in his own blood. it struck out at him. He couldn’t read the lines on her brow. but what you don’t know is the why of it.” Cala’s face showed no emotion. but when he deepened the kiss. This time. “What?” he asked. rushed forward.” Jack covered her hand with his. Jack kissed each cheek and drew his mouth across hers. “but you do have to admit it’s been a long time.” Jack stood silent while letting her words sink in. I guess I could find work anyplace. drawing down his brow. “It’s not to be this lifetime. they’ll make an example of him and you know it.” Jack snapped out. you don’t love me?” Cala turned away.” Cala stepped out of his reach. once I leave here. “Aye. “The stain of his sin had to be erased by you. she quickly pulled away. “I’d appreciate it.

Michael seems a bit more interested in it than most.” Cala came up to his back and placed her warm hand on his shoulder. 117 .” “But you’re neither a Donegal nor Kaite’s daughter. Aren’t you sorry you accepted the legacy?” Cala lifted her hand to his stubble-coated jaw line. The gift must be passed down from mother to daughter.” He watched her struggle for the right words as she brushed her hands down the folds of her gown. “Never leave Tirnageata.” “Restriction?” Cala nodded and answered his question. He gave the gift to the first mistress of Donegal as reward for savin’ his favorite hound’s life. who would?” Jack curled his lip. “You must understand the importance is that I accepted it.” Jack never allowed the smile that he gave her to reach his eyes. “No. “I can think of quite a few who’d opt for the position. I wouldn’t call havin’ to spend my life in Tirnageata like livin’ in a devil’s hellhole. Everyone makes concessions in their lives. “Why not just pass it on to someone else?” Cala’s head was shaking before he finished. “Christ. The thought that she was refusing his love and the life they could have together hurt his pride.” Jack snapped out as he turned back to the stones. None ever has. “Och no. for I’m the one who brought you the joy that will fill you forever. So there’s only one way for release to come. “None before me has.” “I’m Kaite’s heir. through death. giving a little nod of her head as added confirmation. The fresh light of morning lightened the points of her face. then being the heir is nothing but a curse. Damn it. but now you’re locked here forever. “Nay. “For a male to lead. If I wasn’t there to do it. the family would all have to agree. do not be callin’ it that.” he stated flatly. but he found no answer in their cold faces.” Jack turned to her.” He turned to the gray megalith giants.” Cala stepped around him and looked up into his face.” she said.” Jack stepped away. “You could resign. turning his back to her. “The blessin’ has been handed down through the female line of the family since King Conchobhair.“No. with that came the responsibility and the restriction. “You deserve it.

at least. It felt like someone had reached into his chest and ripped out his beating heart. He couldn’t have her touch him so tenderly then walk out of his life. No amount of time or space would change the way he felt about her. He understood what devotion to a promise could do. Cala’s blue eyes searched his face. He wanted to shake some sense into her and scream that she was his. not in this go-round. “Nay. he turned her hand to his lips and kissed the warm center. but his heart refused to release hers. you’ve given it up for hundreds.The pain of her answer reflected in her eyes before she replied. they wouldn’t be spending it together until the end of time. would you do less?” Jack captured her hand and pulled it away from his face.” Goddammit! At last he’d found his true companion. one soul. Instead. “I’ve offered my life to the ones I love.” He released her hand. “I guess you’re like a nun. “You couldn’t turn your back on Niall. wasn’t he ready to take his own life for a promise? Her convictions were no less binding than were his. but instead of giving your life to one spirit.” Cala grazed her fingertips over his lips. Hell. 118 . He cut his word. and fate was stopping them from being together. They shared one heart. and you surely wouldn’t turn your back on all who were here tonight. one love. I’ve pledged my life. but because of her promise.

When a squatty shadow pulled away from the wall. Streams of sunlight cut through the gaps of the barn walls and slashed across the straw-covered floor of the stall. He stood in the center of a wide slice of light. but she was calmer than Michael had expected. He was sure Cala would go wild pleading Jack and the boy’s case. “No. giving Michael his back.” Michael let out a rumbling laugh while keeping his eyes locked onto Sean’s.Chapter 19 “Ya’ve got shit for brains!” Michael’s voice rattled around the barn before falling to the ground. He tightened his lips and narrowed his eyes. He was lucky he knew his balls from his arse. rumbled out Michael’s throat.” Sean snapped around. staring at the darkest corner. sunlight sliced through thinning. now did ya. Michael ground his teeth. The family was more impressed with her ability to keep control than before. when Sean had the backbone of a jellyfish? Michael never thought Sean was worth the effort. Ya’ve a mind just like yar da. sandy blond hair and glinted off the silver badge. “Forget it! I’ve no use for yar watered-down excuses. the old drunken bastard. “’Twas the whiskey that ate up so much of the old man’s brain. His gaze moved down Sean’s full length. How could they share even a drop of the same blood? Sean hardened his stance. and now the bastard proved he couldn’t do a simple thing right. but I didn’t see ya turnin’ it down.” Michael didn’t have respect for his older half-brother.” The sound. How could he. Michael’s shouting words had Sean standing with his mouth hanging open. “I didn’t want him to kill Kaite’s husband so I could have the constable’s job. The muscles in his arms quivered as he strangled the pitchfork’s handle. He’d arranged to have the authorities make the arrest on Samhain. Disgust for Sean brought a bitter taste into Michael’s mouth. “How could ya’ve let that bloody barrister stop the authorities from takin’ the boy to Belfast?” Michael demanded. he knew what herbs could stop a heart and never be traced in the body.” Michael moved forward and rested his hand on Sean’s shoulder. more animal than human. “Our mam was right. “But one thin’ ya have to admit. Bucko?” 119 .

’tis a place that throws grand private necktie parties for Irishmen.” Sean’s eyes stayed steady as he added. I’ll be out of Tirnageata forever. “Cala will nay marry as long as her dear Jack is alive. Michael jerked around. with a charge of kidnappin’ hangin’ over his head. I couldn’t take the chance. A menacing growl rattled low in his chest and slowly slithered out through Michael’s clenched teeth as he said. she’ll be needin’ a shoulder to be cryin’ on and a gentle hand to guide her. Michael watched as a beaded line of sweat collected on Sean’s upper lip. “If ya’d done the job right. “From what I’m hearin’.” Tightening his grip on the handle.” Sean turned to Michael. “But Jack won’t be comin’ back to Ireland. Unable to stand looking at the stupidity written all over Sean’s face.” Sean’s words were near lost in the clamor. It disgusted Michael. a smile spread to his mouth. “So when ’twas yar turn to do the same. Now. while the minute stretched out.” Michael sucked in a slow breath as he slid the pitchfork’s metal tines beneath the mound of straw and tossed it to the far corner. So ya can still have the family and Cala under yar control as ya wanted.” Michael quickly swallowed back the rest of his laugh and slashed his eyes at Sean.” Michael blasted into Sean’s face. ya failed.Sean’s head fell forward and took the full blast of sunlight. “Me da knew he wouldn’t get caught and have the family turn against him. Jack would be installed in Brixton prison by now. Yet. He stopped pitching the straw and shared the thought aloud. The thundering sound echoed through the barn’s hollow space and sent the birds in the loft beating their wings against the crisp air to escape. if he’d happen to slip over to the dark plain. “He’ll stay away to keep the boy safe. “Yar old man gave ya what ya wanted because he knew the importance of takin’ care of yar own. Everything about Sean disgusted Michael.” “Only by half. If Cala and the family catch wind of me pluggin’ information into the authorities.” Michael turned with a fain look of sincerity on his face. Yar American cousin will be leavin’ Ireland in a day or two. While a thought crept into his mind. Glaring hard into his half-brother’s eyes. big brother. I still did what ya asked. “In a round about way. he replaced the look 120 .” Michael began. More skin than hair reflected in the light ricocheting off his lowered head. he lobbed his head back and exploded with laughter.

with a slippery smile. “’Tis a good puppet she’ll be for me use to control the family.” Sean’s face screwed up. “Do ya have any idea of the woman’s powers?” He tsked the next sentence out, “She’s nay a fool.” Michael hardened the line of his mouth and spat out, “I know that, ya imbecile. However, she’s no match for the old ways.” Turning on his heels, he quickly moved across the straw covered floor and placed the pitchfork against the wall. He stopped. Without turning to Sean, Michael spoke to the floor. “For years, I’ve studied the ancient ones. Now, ’tis time for me to carry the family back to power. There’s nay a doubt, if a drop or two of blood is offered up, the diaphelml will be pleased to be addin’ a helpin’ hand to me plan.” “The devil?” Sean sucked in the name, as he raked his fingers through his scattered strain of hair. Slowly, Michael lifted his head. His hands ached to curl around the throat of the useless piece of human garbage that stood before him. Michael promised his hands they’d eventually have their chance, but for now, he’d take what he needed from Sean. When he was used up, then Sean’s blood would water the stone. Michael moved to his brother and curled his arm around Sean’s shoulder. “For now, ’tis yarself that will keep the authorities comin’ around. The family will be puttin’ the blame on Cala for the trouble they’re facin’. She’ll feel the weight of that, and turn to me to aid her. Then, with her cryin’ on me shoulder and the family beggin’ for direction, I’ll do a little whisperin’ in Cala’s ear until the land, the family, and herself are mine.” Sean’s upper lip curled. “Yar plan has a few kinks, brother mine.” Michael dropped his arm and matched Sean sneer for sneer. “The only kinks are the ones ya put there. Now, go back to town and do what it takes to get the authorities’ attention, or I’ll have to be executin’ plan B.” Sean’s eyes widened as he searched Michael’s face. “Ya cannot!” It felt good to let the sinister idea ferment in his brain a moment before Michael answered, “The old ones knew the worth of sacrificin’ yar enemy. With the sheddin’ of their blood ya ingested their power.” Michael’s eyes narrowed as his lip curled. “And who better to have all the power than the one who knows the worth of it?” Michael asked. “But takin’ such a sacrifice as her! Michael! No!”


Sean’s words were filled with terror, but they had no effect on Michael. He shot out a quick snort. “She’s not me enemy, yet.” As Jack and Niall stood in the ticket line, the boy shifted his weight from one foot to the other. His nervous tension grated on Jack’s frazzled nerves, but he understood and swallowed back an order to stop. This was no time to draw attention, not with the phony passport he held in his hand. The line moved and Jack stepped forward with ease. Since the night of the Samhain celebration, the pain in his leg had completely disappeared. Not only had his soul been reborn, but also his body. Jack looked once more at their passports. Gerard was a miracle worker, all right. Conner Wolfe – American. Niall’s picture looked back at him. Jack smiled. The kid had his brother’s smile. Jack was confident this would work because he was on the side of angels, or at least the angels were on his side. Now all he had to do was keep Niall calm and get on that airplane. Jack knelt down and adjusted Niall’s baseball cap. He whispered, “Remember, ‘yeah,’ ‘cool,’ and ‘okay.’ ” “Yeah, yeah I know.” Niall added a look of disgust to round the picture out, but Jack could see fear sparking in the boy’s brown eyes. Jack smiled and winked. The kid might’ve been nervous, but he knew exactly what to do. Now if those damn butterflies in Jack’s stomach would take off their spiked shoes, he’d be fine, too. The line moved forward again and Jack was next at the desk. The agent kept her head down and Jack prayed. He silently slid the two tickets to her. She stamped both sets and lifted her eyes to Jack. “We’ll be boarding in fifteen minutes at gate twenty-three. Have a nice flight.” “Thanks,” Jack said with a wide smile. She looked down at Niall, but he never turned in her direction. The kid was cool, all right. Jack jerked on Niall’s arm. “Say thank you to the lady, Conner.” Niall pushed out a huff through his nose and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, thanks,” he said in a near perfect American accent. Jack looked back at the blond woman with a weary smile and shrugged his shoulders. “Kids.” The woman smiled back and turned to the next customer. They boarded the plane and quickly found their seats near the window. Niall rolled into his seat and buried his face in the


computer gaming magazine. Jack leaned over and whispered in Niall’s ear, “You did good.” From behind the book Niall answered, “Me stomach is flippin’.” “You’re not going to be sick, are you?” “Nay, just the heebie-jeebies.” Jack chuckled. Heebie-jeebies. He wished that were all that he had jumping around in his stomach. As the plane lifted up into the sky, Jack released only half an easy breath. The other half he’d let out when he had Niall safely tucked in bed in Chicago. After their meal, Niall curled up and fell asleep. Jack was bursting with pride at how great Niall had done. Any kid in his position would’ve been bouncing off the walls with excitement. Not that boy. He kept his cool and played the part perfectly. What the boy had been through in his short lifetime was unbelievable. How he was able to meet the demands it put on him was miraculous. This kid had what it took to do some great things with his life. Jack suddenly felt honored to be the one to help Niall accomplish those great things. Jack felt comfortable enough to close his eyes. The faces he’d seen at the Samhain gathering, his parents and Kaite’s, all smiled back at him, but Conner’s bright smile took center stage. His mind drifted to Cala. He loved her; there was no doubt about that. She promised to visit them once they settled in. He wondered if she’d said that just to appease him. No, she wasn’t one to give a promise and not fulfill it. Maybe if she came for a visit, he’d talk her into giving up her position as head of his clan and being his wife instead. Jack smiled behind closed eyes. In one week, every aspect of his life had changed. If God in his infinite wisdom could work such miracles as Jack had seen, then getting Cala into his life permanently should be a piece of cake. The thought carried into his sleep, and what seemed like a minute was actually an hour later when he felt Niall shaking him awake. “Jack, they said we’ll be landin’ soon,” Niall whispered. Being drawn out of the dream scratched at Jack’s mind, but he pushed the thought aside. He’d have time to get back to that dream tonight. “Okay,” Jack answered both to himself and to Niall. “Make sure that buckle is tight,” Jack said, testing Niall’s seat belt. When he looked into the boy’s face, Jack saw wide eyes sparking fear back at him. He was sure they were about to erupt into blazing rockets,


” Customs was easy enough to get through. “Tim.” Tim said. “A stiff one would be great.” Tim said. In fact. “You can say that he gripped Niall’s hand and said. “Together. we’ll stop at Louie’s on the way home. Jack smiled. 124 . they were through in a blink. releasing the bear hug he’d put on Jack. Jack saw Tim racing toward them. this guy here is dying for a hot dog and I could use a drink. but a strong cup of coffee will do. cropped copper hair made him stand out above the crowd.” He draped his free arm around Niall’s shoulders and pulled the boy to him.” Tim’s hand had already shot out to Niall. “It’s good to see you. Jack smiled and nodded.” “Together?” Niall questioned. slapping Jack on the back. Tim’s long legs quickly chewed up the stretch of space that separated them. With not having any luggage but the one nylon bag Jack had brought to Ireland. “Think of all the baby rabbits we’ll find in America. he looked like a lighted match bobbing and weaving through the crowd. “Come on. Jack tried to wipe the smile off his face but his emotions wouldn’t let him. Not far into the airport concourse.” He didn’t hear Tim’s heavy sigh but saw the tension in his friend’s shoulders loosen and the sharp line of his hard jaw relax. His generous height and short. but the priest’s green eyes widened at the thought of Jack still needing the bottle.

It felt better than good. Tim might later find himself smack-dab in the middle without the benefit of being prepared. how much did Gerard tell you about Niall?” Tim’s head bobbed before he answered. Within minutes of the food arriving. Niall had one hot dog scoffed down and was making quick work of the other. Tim smiled at Jack. letting his gaze drop into his coffee cup. but in doing so. and Jack knew that time and friendship would take care of residue.” Jack didn’t hesitate with his response. I’ve got to get him enrolled in 125 .” Tim said. Tim nibbled on a piece of apple pie while Jack sipped his coffee. just to meet you at the airport. Jack felt the tug of a smile. On the plane. “That part of the story I’ll tell you about later. narrow space. angling his head and eyes to Niall. The deeper you got into the long. The guy that left here isn’t the same one that came back.” Jack added. if he held back. he could be putting his friend at risk. “You’ll never know how happy I was to get Gerard’s call. but right now. “He’s part of it. A lengthy counter took up the other wall.” “Tapped?” Tim said on a gasp. Only the front of the building had windows. maybe the most important part from now on. What I need from you is your help with Niall here.Chapter 20 Louie’s was a perfect spot to carry on a conversation. The artificial light reflected off the mirrored wall and onto a line of booths pinned against one wall. The neighborhood restaurant had just enough noise to give you privacy. the more light was supplied by a row of hanging globe lights. and I thought for sure something had happened to you. Jack had wondered how it would feel to see his old friend and be back in Chicago. Jack took another mouthful of coffee and let the lukewarm liquid slide down his open throat. and just enough privacy to keep the noise at bay.” “He might’ve had some suspicions his conversation was being overheard. He seemed to want to get the conversation over quickly. He wanted to tell Tim more. The name painted across the glass didn’t intrude on the sunlight splashing through it. When you left. Between bites. “I’ll have to tell you the story sometime. I had this sinking feeling I’d never see you again. Then that call came. “It did. Yet.” “I can see that. “Not much.

” Jack fought hard to keep a laugh from bursting out his chest. “Sure. “What grade are you in. “We’ll do our thanking at mass on Sunday. “I’ll check around to see if I can get a woman in the parish to come over to help you out. Tim scraped the last of the pie from his plate then looked up at Jack. Tim turned to the boy and asked. Niall?” Jack quickly cut in before Niall could answer. cool.” Jack watched how the weight of his friend’s thoughts pulled down his red brow. you’ll never believe it. Could that be done?” “I guess.” Jack’s head was shaking before Tim finished the sentence. “Jack?!” Jack smiled and nodded. cool. The school’s been a part of the exchange program with Ireland for three years now.” Tim hesitated. “I think the less people around. but could I be keepin’ Niall somewhere in there?” “Sure.” Niall added around a mouthful of fries. His mouth gaped and his eyes widened.” Tim wiped the crumbs from his mouth before saying. the less likely something will slip up. “I think the name is grand.” “Yeah. “Trust me. 126 . “Whatever it is. “We can enroll him in St.” Tim’s face opened up. could you do it under the name of Conner Wolfe?” Tim slashed the worried look in his eyes at Jack. We men can make out just fine. “No.” He turned to Niall. “Yeah. “That’s another thing. He lifted his chin slightly and narrowed his eyes before he continued. Can’t we?” “Yeah. because He had a big hand in it as usual.” Niall answered. but how are you with that?” Jack gave his smile to without the fuss and bother of birth certificates. you heard me right.” Jack answered without hesitation. don’t bother. “I can’t wait to have that long talk.” Tim’s smile widened.” Jack was anxious to see his friend’s reaction when he hit Tim with this next line. Bridget’s. bringing up a beaming smile to Jack’s face. “I’m good with it. it brought you back to the living and for that I thank God.” Niall smiled back. He’d get lost in the shuffle easy enough. “We’ll both be there. Jack turned his attention back to Tim.

Jack heard Tim helping Niall with his math homework. but Jack was reluctant to tell Tim all of what happened on Samhain. Jack had hated the way light filtered through the large double-hung windows in the living room. “The decimal point doesn’t move. and they had a few more targets in mind. and some of the happy memories still rattled around in the large space. and some of the feelers that Jack put out about his freelance architectural work were starting to pay off. but now the warmth and love had returned. The priest had become a permanent fixture around Jack’s house. They touched on some of the folk and problems they were having but didn’t get into the specifics. If this was as good at it gets. but Jack felt bond by family duty to keep the secret. Back then. Most every night.The month flew by and it was only a week before Christmas. he was either tutoring Niall or joining the two of them on their walks through the nearby park. He’d grown up in this old brick two-story. then Jack had it all. She’d written that the family planned to cancel the ancient Yule celebration in the stones because Michael felt the pressure wasn’t off of them yet. Karma fixed or not. Life was good. Cala’s letters weren’t much help in that area either. Two “me’s” rattled back at him from the living room. Jack knew Gerard’s connections had managed that. Niall had settled in quite well at school. From the next room. Jack shared Niall’s entire story with Tim. “Who’s up for spaghetti tonight?” Jack called out from his drawing board. and Jack was extremely grateful. After Conner’s death. This immediately took the pressure off Niall. there wasn’t much he could do with an ocean between them. “Okay. The family agreed to keep it small so as not to draw attention in case the authorities were still watching them.” 127 . Jack still thought Michael was an asshole. but it’s Father Tim’s turn to make the salad. She told him how the authorities had received a note saying that the pub bombing was done by a splintered fraction of the old guard. the building reeked with loneliness.” Tim stressed. but not great. Eventually. He knew Tim would believe him. Cala wrote that Michael had been a great help to her. Yet. Reading that line didn’t help Jack in the least. Jack’s eyes drifted around the room. He loved this house.

she’s not here. Was she planning to surprise him? Damn. “Jack Wolfe.” Niall’s voice exploded just seconds before Jack heard the refrigerator door open and close. How in the hell are you?” “I’m fine. “Hey. Fear ripped through Jack.” Jack’s heart restarted.” “Aye. they’d found them. please. Jesus Christ.” he said into the receiver. I’m callin’ to wish ya and Cala a Happy Christmas. I’ll be doin’ it. She drove to my office and gave me the news that she was goin’ to America. ’tis Gerard here. “Christ.” 128 . you only have lettuce there. “Father Tim puts in green peppers. and I do apologize for scarin’ the life out of ya. “Jesus. I assume she’s busy with the holidays.” The Irish voice repeated. “Hello. same to you. when was the last time you spoke to her?” “’Twas two weeks ago. “Gerard. The silence prickled the hairs on Jack’s arms.“Nay. Then Gerard’s voice broke through sharp and clear. “Tell me again. The rush of excitement at possibly seeing Cala was instantly replaced with an anxiety that trembled through him. “Jack. are ya sayin’ Cala’s not there with you?” “No. “This is Jack.” Niall added.” Jack said into the air as he reached for the phone. thanks for the call.” he whispered. “Jack Wolfe. how is your ex-secretary? I haven’t heard from her for two weeks. Jack. Gerard. His heart raced as his eyes darted to Niall’s face.” There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. He tried to push out an answer while his mind flashed through scenarios of how he’d hide Niall. what a great Christmas that would be. Just as they started another round.” Jack jumped to his feet. “Repeat that. please. you had me almost pissing in my pants.” Jack pushed the word out before his heart leapt into his throat. please. the phone rang to break them up.” “How’s everyone back there?” “All’s well. but this time Jack broke the silence. “Saved by the bell. By the way.” The heavy Irish brogue had Jack strangling the phone. Somethin’ about Ellen O’Dea takin’ over her duties.” “Well.” A heavy pause fell between them again.” Tim announced his observation.

Pulling the rental car up to a dark house gave Jack more than just an unsettling feeling.” Jack didn’t wait for Gerard’s confirmation before hanging up the phone.” he whispered to the dark brick building. It brought sadness to the unseeing windows. Jack’s gaze stretched to the ceiling.. He walked through the tangled shadow until the path opened. he moved to the fireplace and built a fire.. and there wasn’t even a sliver of light in the window. “Gerard. He could feel her 129 . What the hell could’ve happened? Cala was a woman of her word. just as it had the first day. only now loneliness had been added. It opened easily. “Thank you. “What could have happened to her? After stoppin’ by Sean Raftery’s office to give him some papers. His parents had spent their wedding night there. I’ll get it out to you ASAP.” “I’ll call you when I get to Shannon Airport.something happened. The cottage looked painfully lonely. she wouldn’t change her mind unless.” “Aye. I drove past her house. he knew it was futile to try the door. The crisp night air sharpened the moonlight that spiked on the roof of Kaite’s house. He turned to the path that led around back. I’ve got to get out there. The scratch and spark of the match rang out in the silence.” Gerard said in a stronger voice. Jesus. The emptiness enveloped him and a shiver crept up his spine. Do you think you could arrange for me to have one of those art works you got for Niall? I think my passport might stir up some questions. did ya nay hear me? I said that was two weeks ago. and he remembered the night she’d come to apologize. If she said she was coming to him. but this time there was no welcoming fire dancing in the hearth. Moonlight poked through the low hanging branches and littered the stones. “Kaite’s house. Kaite had said. It was already closed up. Only the muffled clatter of his shoes striking the stones followed him around the darkened building. It was locked.” Jack fought against his rush of joy to listen to the rest of Gerard’s words. Quickly.“She said she was goin’ to America and Ellen was takin’ over. As he made his way up the stone steps. Her love and presence were still here.” There was fear in Gerard’s voice and Jack knew what he felt was real. but he did anyway. and then he stopped. He walked to the door and hit the latch.” “Jack. There sat the cottage bathed in the night’s blue light.

he made his vow. even if he had to tear down every stone of Tirnageata to do so. “Christ. It was too late for him to go searching for her now. but the dancing fingers knew less than he his arms and hear the sound of her soft cries when she bore her soul to him. but tomorrow he’d find her. He’d find her and never leave her side again. Jack watched the flames chew into the kindling. The edges of the turf log were beginning to glow. where the hell is she?” Jack asked the flames. As the flames devoured the log. He folded onto the couch and stretched out. 130 .

Jack realized whom he’d just passed. Jack had made a mental list of the people he wanted to question. Too steady. holding his sneer. During the night. He cut his gaze hard to lock horns with Michael while the moment stretched out. Jack didn’t have time to play this asinine game. When they settled on Jack’s face.” Michael’s eyes stayed steady. “I’m sure you’ve heard that Cala never showed up in America. Michael’s truck took longer to achieve the same results. Jack waited as Michael rolled down the window. “I plan to. A slicing smile that lined Michael’s lips was his only reply. He shook his head in small movements while he gave out one sharp. Michael’s eyes were cold and hard. then there’s not much either of us can do about it now. He couldn’t read a thing in them that might suggest this guy was lying. Michael’s truck came from the opposite direction. but his eyes narrowed. then ’tis Sean ya should be speakin’ to. Jack tucked his chin to his chest and angled his head to make his point. The tires skidded over the loose gravel before the car finally came to a complete stop. hard tsk. Jack climbed out of the car and dashed to the truck before Michael could open the truck door. As the car rounded the bend. Leaning out. “I’ve not heard that bandied about. “I’m not inside the woman’s mind. and he pulled the car to a screeching halt. Jack felt a chill sweep through him. is there?” 131 . A wispy fog hugged the ground as a frightened child holds on to its mother’s skirts. There wasn’t a hint of concern in Michael. Michael slashed his gaze down Jack’s full length. Jack drew in a steadying breath. “Are you going to sit there and tell me you don’t know a shittin’ thing?” The sharp line of Michael’s chin came up in defiance. of course. So. If that’s so. and.Chapter 21 The sleepy town was just waking as Jack maneuvered the small car through the narrow streets. “What do you know about her disappearance?” “Disappearance?” Now Michael’s face opened up. that’s where Jack would start. Michael’s name was first. but Jack felt it gnaw in his gut. If she’s taken it into her head to run off. Jack thought. so he slammed the question right out.” Not a muscle twitched in Michael’s face with Jack’s statement. In a blink.” Jack answered.

something’s wrong and you know it. why didn’t he offer to help look for her?” Jack asked 132 . “Well. I want you to go with me to question Michael. “Listen Sean. “What I know. so Jack squeezed his fists until the tension rippled up his arms. The first I heard of her not arrivin’ was two days ago. I’ve told ya. ya probably took a few years off the man’s life by showin’ up and sayin’ Cala’s missin’. Anger rolled and bubbled inside him.” The constable was acting far too nervous not to know something more. Michael knew a more than he was saying. I could tell he knows more than he’s saying. He had guilt written all over his face. Jack leaned over and pressed the flat of his hands against the desk surface. now can I?” Sean shifted the pile back one more time then looked up at Jack. “I’m sorry I can’t be more help to ya.” “I’ve talked to just about everyone around town. He wanted to reach inside the truck and strangle the truth out of Michael. When I caught up with Michael. Cala left here two weeks ago. but a poor Irish farmer doesn’t have time to dally like rich American architects do. His excuses were as thin as water. He nervously shifted a stack of papers from one side to the other.” Sean stepped back to his desk and sat down. It’s probably concern ya were a seein’ in the man’s eyes. and they both knew it. “I can’t be stormin’ up to a man just because ya didn’t like the look on his face. Michael shifted in his seat and broke their locked gaze. and you damn well know it. Don’t give me that polite police crap. The bastard didn’t love Cala or he’d be out there scouring the countryside with Jack. I don’t see the need to be questionin’ Michael as you insist. when Barrister O’Connor rang me up.” Jack hissed through tight lips.“She didn’t run off. This was only round one. but instead Jack slammed his balled fists into the deep pockets of his jacket. and Jack would find out just what that bastard was hiding. Jack stepped back slightly when the truck made a break to move. I didn’t think there was much to it then and I don’t now.” He added a soft snort as a stressing point as he shifted the truck into gear. She told us all she was goin’ to America to be with ya. “Anyway.” Jack took a long step that brought him into Sean Raftery’s space. He stepped further from the truck to insure his feet had cleared the wheels. The little constable stretched his neck back and peered up into Jack’s eyes.

” Sean rolled out of his chair and came around the desk. What I’d like to understand is why a Donegal wouldn’t be looking for one of his own. “She’s a McCoy. Jack sat in the O’Dea’s kitchen listening as Ellen filled in some of the missing pieces to the puzzle. but she still didn’t have the one piece he needed to help him find Cala. The anger that had flooded his face was now replaced by something tangible. but once we’re married.” Nearly outside. I’ll stop by and question Michael for meself. There’s something you’re not telling. you do your tap dance of a so-called investigation while I rip the village apart and find her.” Jack lashed out through his teeth.through tight lips. sending a chill rippling through Jack’s body. If the family gave her permission to leave this town.” Sean’s face flushed a soft rose. Blood was truly thicker than water. I’m not buying the shit you’re peddling. I didn’t say I wasn’t goin’ to help ya look for her. if you’re not going to help me then I’ll do it without you.” “Procedure. “Cala might not be a Donegal by blood. “That’s bullshit. “Now. now. The baby’s cry drew Ellen out of the kitchen. and you know it. but maybe we’re lookin’ in the wrong place. Boy-o. she’ll have all the rights that name carries. “No. Later. “Go ahead.” The animosity in Sean’s statement was clear. When she came back. but Jack could see the hue was anger rising.” Jack knocked Sean’s hand off. then she would’ve been on my doorstep as fast as her legs could carry her. When Sean continued to stare without any sign of answering.” The cool look in Sean’s eyes stayed put as he ushered Jack out the door. Could be she decided to stay there for a while. Sean stepped back. He put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. Fear. Ya’re not trained in the way of police procedure. Maybe she stopped off in Dublin to do a little shoppin’ for gifts and such for her trip. she asked if Jack would like to take his tea into 133 . Jack stopped and turned to glare at Sean. there’s something screwy going on here and goddammit. Jack continued. She was eager to share all she knew. With the force of Jack’s words. I can feel it in my bones. “Now I’ll be goin’ out to be a searchin’ Kaite’s house.” “I wouldn’t be doin’ that if I were you. not a Donegal. my ass.

but it didn’t stay there long. She quickly pushed the last bit of cookie into her mouth. There was no mistakin’ the grief she bore because ya were gone.” 134 . “Och. but we could all see that her heart wasn’t in them. and a cluster of bric-a-brac sat on a small side table. Jack followed her into the room and took a seat on the couch. More than just a place to entertain guests. “Daligherat. her daughter raced into the room. She’d lost a good bit of weight with spendin’ half the day out by the ruins and the other half tucked away in the cottage. The baby’s cheek fell to her shoulder. Ellen beamed as she rocked and looked at her daughter. Pictures of the two children lined the mantel above the fireplace. of course. “Cala’d become so melancholy and withdrawn after yar leavin’ that the family became worried that she’d put herself in an early grave. Jack smiled. Jack’s gaze followed the child out the room and then traveled around the small space. but the place didn’t feel all that closed in. It wasn’t long before he was softly sleeping in her arms. As she patted his small back. Within seconds. she had to hold the cookie inside with a covering hand. “Most of the family rarely saw her except for Sunday mass. but when the child smiled back.” The baby squirmed and gave out a soft whimper. don’t be stealin’ the cookies. now don’t ya?” The small girl nodded and bowed her head slightly as she struggled to keep the cookie from popping out her mouth. she rocked and talked softly over his head. A few pieces of heavy furniture were mixed with what looked like well-crafted antiques. Ellen slowly shifted her fussing son into the hollow of her arm.” Ellen smiled down at the little towheaded child. adding a hitch of her chin as directions.the parlor while she rocked her teething son to sleep again. he rolled to the other cheek and gave his nose a hard rub with his balled fist. Ellen shifted the baby to her shoulder. “Daligherat. “Now go wash that chocolate off your face and hands. He yawned but kept his eyes closed. the room was a reflection of the love that this family shared.” Ellen whispered. One window wasn’t enough to open up the room. her greetin’s were cordial enough. Wolfe. He was fighting hard against sleep. and I don’t want you spoilin’ your supper. you’re rememberin’ Mr. overstuffing it. As Ellen settled in the rocker by the window with her son. but Ellen’s persistence and claming voice lulled her son’s eyes shut.” Ellen ordered. Your da will be home soon.

A shaft of sunlight sliced through the window and grazed the child’s red fuzzy head. Ellen kissed it and smiled down at the sleeping infant. “His teeth are givin’ him a great problem.” Jack tried to remember Conner crying when he was teething. All Jack remembered was one day the teeth weren’t there and the next they were. Jack blinked back that memory. “Gerard mentioned in the beginning that the authorities were hanging around Tirnageata like glue, did that cause the family more of a problem?” Even though the baby’s eyes had closed, Ellen continued rocking him. Jack was sure that her actions were more for her than her son. “Most of the family didn’t care about that, they were far more worried about Cala. We understood the reason behind her actions, and we refused to be the cause of another soul havin’ to live out their life in torment for our sake. So, we released her from her pledge and gave her our blessin’ to go to ya. All but Michael, that is.” Jack snorted sharply. “I figured he’d be none too pleased with the idea.” “Unhappy would be far too mild of a word to describe his reaction. He blew the roof off when we made the suggestion. He said the family would never see the gift again. Cala’s leavin’ would take that with her.” Ellen stopped rocking, and she looked hard into Jack’s eyes. “We’ve never had one step down except through death, ya know.” Jack smiled, “Yeah, Cala told me. What happened to change Michael’s mind?” “Nothin’ that I’m aware of. I think he still carries the thought of it. He was outvoted ’tis all.” “When did she leave?” Ellen started rocking again and answered, “Cala spent that one week teachin’ me all that she could. She said that once Michael calmed down he’d show me the rest. Aye, ya couldn’t believe ’twas the same woman. She tidied up the house and cottage until they sparkled. Throughout the days and well into the night, ya could hear her singin’ as she worked. We knew in our hearts that even if the gift would be taken away, we did the right thin’ for our Cala.” Ellen’s face lit up with self-satisfaction, and it pleased Jack that the family thought enough of him to give him the gift of Cala’s love.


“Who took her to the station?” “Me Tom was a plannin’ to, but his car had a puncture, so Sean offered.” “Sean? But he didn’t mention,” Jack stopped. He held back the rest of the sentence. The bastard lied, but Jack didn’t want anything to get out before he needed it. “Have you talked to Michael since that night?” “Nay, I’ve been a mite busy with the learnin’ and the babe and all. I know Michael can be a stubborn man, but time will surely iron out the wrinkles. We all knew how he felt about Cala, but he’s a grown man. I’m thinkin’ he’ll get over it.” Jack smiled, but he felt something squeezing in the pit of his stomach. “Grown men can be very dangerous if they don’t get over something.” Ellen shifted the sleeping baby to the crook of her arm. “Ya don’t understand the family. We love one another as we would ourselves, just as the Good Lord instructs us to do. Though Cala didn’t love Michael in the wifely fashion, as he might’ve wanted, he’d never be a harmin’ her because of it.” “Michael is a man familiar with bad karma. There’s nothing saying that he wouldn’t step right back into that role.” “Aye, there is, for now his soul has been cleansed.” Tension twisted up Jack’s spine. He knew something was wrong, but what and who could be the cause of it was something he was determined to find out. “You could be right, but some people never change, no matter how many lifetimes they live.”


Chapter 22
The police station was locked up tight with no sign of Sean anywhere. Jack didn’t bother leaving a note on the blackboard that hung outside the door. What could he write? You bastard, you know more than you let on? That tidbit would get a few eyes popping out of their heads as the people walked by. The sonofabitch probably knew exactly what happened to Cala, but Jack wasn’t going to show his hand. He needed to know more, and the only one who was close enough to Cala was Michael. Ellen had said that Sean drove Cala to the station. A thousand questions raced through Jack’s mind at once. Maybe Sean had only dropped her off, and she did do some shopping before she got on the plane. Maybe something happened to her in Dublin. His mind reeled through every scenario, and his fear escalated when his thoughts came back to Tirnageata. Jack got back into the car. He had to talk to Michael once more. If the bastard cared about Cala as much as he said he did, then why in the hell wasn’t he out searching for her? Sean didn’t have an answer to that question anymore than he did but he was determined to find out. Jack knew if anything happened to Cala then he and Michael would fall right back into another eight hundred years of bad karma, but this time it would be Jack’s soul that would carry the sin. On the way to Michael’s farmhouse, Jack passed Sean driving in the opposite direction. Jack honked the horn, but Sean didn’t acknowledge him. Jack wasn’t quite sure whether Sean had noticed him, but he wasn’t worried. He’d catch up with Sean later at the station. There was no doubt he had more questions for Tirnageate’s constable. After pulling the car to a stop at the low rock wall, Jack studied the farmhouse. The long, low, stone building had a fresh coat of white paint, and the brown trim on the shutters looked crisp and new. Several smaller buildings no doubt had a place of importance in the running of the farm, but the large brown barn was the only one that a city boy like Jack could confidently recognize. A few free ranging chickens causally pecked and clucked their way along the gravel walkway that led from building to building, while a gaggle of white long-necked geese stood at attention, watching what this stranger was going to do next. Jack’s gaze stretched up to the afternoon sky. Boiling dark clouds rolled


Jack wasn’t sure which. The hard look in his eyes could have driven a weaker man to the ground. Nothing on earth could have caused Cala to walk away from everyone. he dropped the empty syringe in the bag he had hooked on his belt. and there he found Michael injecting the animals with a hypodermic needle as they filed through a narrow chute. Just as Jack was about to make his way back to the car. “Ya are when they’re yar own. not stopping his trek down the line of cows. and filled it from the vile of vaccine. So. He knocked. He waited a while then tried the latch. Michael’s head snapped up at Jack’s approach. he studied the building and the grounds. The man needed order in his life at all points. He took out a fresh needle from another pouch. but right now Michael’s personality quirks were the least of Jack’s concerns. as he stretched out his long legs to get to the arena. The trees and bushes surrounding the house were neatly trimmed back for winter. we help keep the veterinarian bills to a minimum. Jack trekked up the short gravel path that led to the heavy wooden door. It was locked.” “What are you injecting them with?” Jack asked. Everything about the place screamed anal-retentive. He stuck a cow in the rump with the large needle. Their mood reflected his frustration. but not Michael. Jack stepped aside to give Michael a clear path. And by doin’ this ourselves. everyone in Tirnageata left their doors unlocked. After pushing the fluid into the animal. “Are you a vet also?” Jack asked. “’Tis time for their yearly vaccinations. Jack’s first opinion of Michael had hit the target dead center. While he waited for an answer.” Michael answered. That’s what gave him the control.overhead. he heard the agitated bellowing of cows from beyond the barn. Strange. or he had secrets he needed to keep. Her devotion to the family was so strong that leaving for trivial reasons would never be a part of the equation. Jack knocked again. Everything was meticulous. He followed the sound around back to the pens. Farmers around here have to wear many a hat to keep land and animals tended to properly. He was either very protective of his privacy. but Jack held his own. Michael moved like a person on 138 . now looking down over the split rail fence.

but why had he gone along with it? Jack clamped his jaw tight and refused to question Michael any further on that subject. but it didn’t work. “Ya know. “Nay. I think Tom O’Dea did. “Pleadin’ what case?” That comment got Michael to stop a moment. Michael jerked back around.” Michael spoke his brisk reply through his teeth. “But I thought you wanted me here to clear up some bad blood between us. I thought you’d be pleading your case up to the last minute.” Michael said without moving his lips.” “But she didn’t love you. Isn’t that what the ritual was all about?” Michael held his hard glare then he turned back to the job at hand. There was no doubt Michael was on the verge of exploding.” “That surprises me.” Jack patted the wide back of an animal as it moved up the line. Michael didn’t hesitate with either his answer or his work. Before Jack could blink. at least for now. but he kept it out of his voice. “Ya were already in her blood. I didn’t. She cared for me first and maybe time would be bringin’ that feelin’ back again. and we would’ve been very happy if ya hadn’t come along. His eyes skittered in their sockets like frightened insects. “Either case. His hands shook. “The case that she should stay here with you. “Kaite and the family wanted it. I knew the moment we met.” Jack knew exactly what reaction those words were going to get. but she knew I was here to offer her me shoulder a time or two.” Jack felt anger boiling in his blood. Michael had stuck four more of the cows. and Jack felt the icy cold shards of jealousy stabbing at him. After a moment. and tossed the last of the needles into the pouch.” Jack realized that another piece had just fallen into place. Inside Jack’s skull. assembly line.” “I loved her. but only a moment. It was the family’s idea. did it?” Michael’s head snapped up. and it was all the answer Jack needed. Michael gathered up 139 . his thoughts raced feverishly. you had your chance to convince her after I left.” Michael stopped and narrowed his eyes. Michael didn’t give a damn if his karma was repaired. “Me feelin’s are nay any of yar business. So. “Yeah. “I was wondering if you took Cala to the station?” Jack asked.

However. She loved Tirnageata. Jack looked up. When Jack arrived it was nearly suppertime. If Cala had phoned or returned.” Michael turned to Jack. and right now she needs a little space to learn her own mind. Cala’s been confused. He could hear Cala’s laugh as she explained that she wasn’t part of the organization. He was surprised when he met two tentative looking men waiting in the outer office. Just as Jack was about to exchange the newspaper for a magazine. let alone open it? No. at least the red brick building looked like it had been built in this century. Still. the double inner office doors spread wide. She’s probably not doin’ more than spendin’ some time in Oughterard with her friends. These were surely some of those “Irish citizens” that Cala mentioned.the last of his medical supplies and moved to the fence. A prickle crawled up his spine as he noticed the two men staring at him. anyway. what if Cala had written a letter. “Lately. He was sure Gerard had already left for the day. Jack moved to the first open chair and sat down. Gerard 140 . Jack needed to call Tim immediately. then Tim would’ve contacted him through Gerard. “She was always a sullen woman. He’d let him think otherwise while he listened for the lie that would give him the lead he needed to find Cala. and that’s why I’m not about to go chasin’ after her. While scanning the Irish Times. would Tim even know whom it was from. whom Gerard helped out from time to time. Jack walked into the heavily paneled office. but she was never satisfied here. “Why don’t ya just go back to America and wait for a letter from her? If there’s not one there already.” His voice strained against his tight vocal cords. She’s a grown woman. What was coming out of Michael’s mouth was pure bullshit and Jack knew it. Gerard’s office was on the second floor of one of the newer buildings near the center of Oughterard. He gripped the wood rail tightly as he looked out over the herd of cows. and the strain of bein’ restricted to Tirnageata was playin’ on her mind.” Jack returned Michael’s icy stare. I understood. an article about Sinn Fein caught his eyes. She needed to be with more people than just family. Well. He immediately picked up the newspaper that had been left in the seat next to him.

but if so.” Right now. Gerard sighed and opened the outer door to show the trio out. The bitter taste pinched his tongue and burned a path down his throat. Where in the hell could she be? His mind jumped from thought to thought. Michael believes that she’s either with friends here or maybe in Dublin. Gerard locked the door behind them and signaled to Jack to come into the inner office.” “Me associates haven’t found a trace of her anywhere in Oughterard. Now. but there wasn’t much to go on. He hadn’t taken a drop since the Samhain. I’ve had the records checked and there’s not a Calatin McCoy listed on any flight to America. Hearing himself say no would only add to his frustration. “I was wondering if I could I use your phone to call the States to see if they’ve heard anything from her?” Gerard turned the phone around to Jack and rolled back into his chair. He tried to rein in the ones that could be leads. He sipped it slowly. He had no need to go into that place ever again. Jack scooted to the edge of his seat. and he instantly asked. he needed every bit of himself here to help find her. supposedly. 141 .” Gerard’s eyes hooked onto Jack’s. The creak of leather filled the pause between sentences. He mumbled something inaudible in Gaelic as he patted the younger man’s back. for that matter.” Jack raked his fingers through his hair.walked out with his arm draped over a younger man’s sagging shoulders. Everythin’ will be taken care of. “Sean Raftery drove her to the station. “Don’t worry. After they left. you leave a little of yourself behind. Jack followed. I’m not sayin’ that she’s not here. ya go home and wait for me call. “Every time you go into that place. “What have ya found out from that end?” Gerard asked as he settled into the swivel leather chair behind the wide mahogany desk. “Did you find her?” Jack silently shook his head. or Dublin. she’s hidin’ like a titmouse. Before he settled into the leather seat. Gerard pushed a half glass of whiskey into Jack’s hand. As he set the glass down on the desk. he heard Cala’s words in his mind.

“Have ya found Cala?” Jack’s smile crashed. He could hear the strain in it to sound American and older. he just hoped it would be soon. He knew he’d find Cala.” Niall agreed. but when ya’re finished. He’d asked Tim to stay with Niall. and his old friend would never let him down. he’s standin’ right by me side.” “Good. he wants to talk to me again. and a bubbling laugh tickled in Jack’s chest.” Tim’s answer to Niall came in strong through the receiver.” “Aye. I will. “I know ya will. but also for his own self-confidence. “Hi. “Niall. I gathered from this end of the conversation that you haven’t found Cala yet. Jack. Then in a heavy whisper he said.” Niall said. Niall’s question told Jack she wasn’t there. He hated to put Niall on hold. but Jack’s impatience began banging in his head. “Aye.” Niall’s voice quickly returned to the heavy lilt that Jack knew. Jack. but don’t worry.Chapter 23 “Wolfe residence. not yet. “Is Father Tim there?” Jack already knew the answer. ’tis grand to hear yar voice.” Jack added the last comment not only for Niall.” “Could we finish our conversation after I talk to Father Tim?” Jack asked.” Jack smiled at the dignified sound of Niall’s small voice. “No. this is Jack. “Jack wants to talk to ya. “Aye.” 142 .

’” Jack’s heart slammed against his ribs. what would it say? I’ve decided that being with you wasn’t what I wanted. Jack swallowed hard and heard it squeeze in his own ears.” Tim said. “We fight about the green peppers and of course bedtime. open the letter and read it to me. Tim coughed softly. just as long as she was all right. but I’m sure you’ll understand.” The pleasure in Tim’s heart traveled through the phone. “How you holding up? Any leads?” Jack pushed down the sigh that started to find its way up into his throat.“No. I’ve decided to take a small holiday then return to Tirnageata. The news brought Gerard out of his seat and around the desk to Jack’s side.” “There’s a letter from Cala.” Jack ordered with a wide smile on his face. “I don’t care. “Niall. If there was a letter. so I’ll not ask this of you. Jack shook his head. “Sweet Jesus.” Jack didn’t know whether to hope or not. but hold on. after careful consideration. Cala. He didn’t care if she had chosen to dump him. A feeling of doom crawled up his spine as he listened to Tim read. go get the mail. “Nothing yet. Forgiveness isn’t always the right thing to do. Read it now. but I was wondering if there could possibly be a letter there from her.” As they waited. “‘The family has released me from my pledge. “‘Dear Jack: This letter isn’t easy for me to write. Jack asked.” There was a moment of silence.” Jack repeated to Gerard who had been sitting behind his desk quietly reading some papers. then?” 143 . “There’s a few I’ve got to check out yet. However.” The strength of Tim’s voice weakened as he turned away from the receiver. Tim. “It’s not much of a letter. hurry. but he’s doing just great. Love forever. “’Tis a letter from Cala!” Jack’s heart stuttered. “Are you coming home.’” There wasn’t a sound from either end of the telephone line for a full second. my destiny.” “Father Tim! Father Tim!” Niall’s voice rang out in the background. only two paragraphs. This life is my responsibility. and Jack could feel the change in Tim before his words were out. “How’s Niall doing?” “Great.

there will be a celebration because Cala will be with him. He approached each ancient stone and carefully searched the secret lines his Druid ancestors had carved. “Thanks Tim. and that letter proves it. “No. and thanks for taking care of Niall. Jack stopped and turned to the majestic stone. Jack released the sigh that he had held back. Cala hadn’t made that choice freely. someone had made it for her. Jack stood on the edge looking in. Jack studied the variegated shades of black and gray running across the stone’s face. so I can write it down. this Jack knew in his soul. but she’s not here so I’m staying until I find her. It stood regally and straight. She was trying to tell him something. a power born from a knowledge that had come to it long before time began. Read it to me one more time slowly. “I heard what Father Tim read to ya. I want everything ready to celebrate. 144 . That letter might’ve been written by Cala. The secret of creation of this world and the paths to the next were locked behind its sealed lips. After completing his interrogation of the outer circle. “What I want you and Father Tim to do is take charge of decorating the house for Christmas.” Jack didn’t address Niall’s comment. Do you understand?” Hearing the excitement in his own voice made Jack’s blood tingle.” Tim repeated the letter. forever. The soft rain darkened their heads and glittered their bodies. I’m sorry she’s chosen to stay in Ireland. please?” “Jack. What in the hell was it? When Tim finished. He couldn’t tell the boy what he felt in his heart. but something screamed inside Jack’s head. There was no mistaking that this king commanded all to pay homage to his absolute power. Somewhere in this magical ring was the answer he sought. but where was she? Jack slowly walked into the megalith’s realm. and I want you two to buy the best Christmas tree you can find. Cala was alive. Hearing the words a second time didn’t make them any easier to take. a clue of some sort.” Niall’s voice hitched around the name. Something is very wrong here. The circle of faceless gray giants clustered tightly together in the misty valley. I’m not. Power radiated from its weathered body. He could feel it. When I come home. His quick answer flew out.Jack’s mind flashed. When he goes back to Chicago. Tim knows where I keep the decorations. Could you put him back on now.

“Please. Overhead. Pain creased her brow and tears filled her eyes. Jack carefully lifted his hand and placed it on the feet of the cold monarch. It rolled and twisted as it struggled to take form. so did the rain. It swirled and stretched until it was a living ball of bright light. He kept his eyes closed as he turned his face up to the gray sky. He slammed his fist against the cold chest of the faceless king. let me see her. “Mist kisses your face. His head fell forward and his spine rolled. drew Jack’s attention back to the stone. and Cala’s words replayed in his mind. Beneath his fingers. When nothing happened. Jack leaned against the window frame and stared out at the night-filled grove. he thought a face looked back at him. In its gray center was a small.” Jack whispered to the ground. and they were rewarded for their devotion. Cala was out there somewhere.” The words scorched his heart. the image disappeared. The flickering shape vibrated until a blurred image formed. He dropped to his knees. a pulsating beat rushed through the stone. almost a whimper. He jumped to his feet. The dread of loneliness exploded through every fiber of his body.” Jack demanded. Brown and black shadows shifted behind her. From inside the darkened cottage. he said a prayer. whereas rain washes your tears away. He slowly reached out his hand. “Cala!” Jack screamed out her name as he watched her face fill the small circle. a shaft of sunlight sliced across the stones and struck the altar. His ancestors believed in the power of the stones. Jack’s heart ripped open. he lifted his eyes to its warmth. “Please. he fell back onto his knees and once more begged for help. please give me a sign. but just as his fingers touched the cold stone. Jack felt her life pulsating through his veins. With his head bowed. When the sun’s warming rays cut across his rolled back.Jack slowly moved forward. shimmering blue-white orb. The thought of that same ancient blood running through his veins ignited Jack’s mind. As his prayer ended. A rolling mist bathed his face. Would this king of the stones grant him his petition? Jack stood before the stone ruler and for a fleeting moment. Then a tiny sound. 145 . Bowing his head again.

Whatever was catching the moon’s light nudged his curiosity and continued to nag at him until he had no choice but to go out and search for the source of the light. “Someone must be digging peat. He tried to make out just where it was. Just about thirty feet into the grove. He couldn’t take his eyes off the eerie landscape. Without thinking. he caught a glimpse of a small blue-white light flickering as it moved deep in the grove’s dark center. the ground became spongy under his feet. His breath fogged up the small. Cala had said there were peat bogs around here. There. he started to cut left. Whoever was out this late must really need the fuel badly to risk falling into that stuff. but his boot 146 . making it easy for him to follow the twists and turns that led into the grove. a dark shadow seemed to explode before his eyes. it disappeared. The tiny light hung directly over the cottage’s thatched roof for a brief second. it danced up into the treetops. “Cala. Even knowing that he was closing in on the marshy bog. Stepping out into the night from the dark house didn’t affect his eyesight. The gray-white light of the moon illuminated the stone path. As he circled another tree. He knew this was much more than someone’s midnight run for fuel. an explosion of muffled. square glass pane.” Jack resigned into his cup of tea. something raised the hackles on his neck. taking each step cautiously. Suddenly. but before he could get a bearing on it. There it was again! This time. What the hell was it about that picture? Jack raked his fingers through his hair as he stared out the window. angry voices shattered the stillness. About a quarter mile away. Twice he caught the light’s flicker and twice he lost it. and then disappeared. he couldn’t stop the need that drove him on to find that source of light. Suddenly. As the mist cleared away. but his instincts pulled him to turn right.” he whispered. When he reached the tree line. Her face quickly came into focus but the backdrop refused to stay together. Frosty moonlight tipped the edge of the shadows with silver. He moved into the darkest part of the forest. Jack took a few cautious steps to shorten the distance. was the outline of a cottage. with its edges blending into the darkness.He tried to visualize the image he’d seen on the stone. A series of thick dark lines scored the background. he found a dirt path that took him deep inside the grove. the tiny point of light sparked once again. Still. Jack took a step forward.

it was solid enough to take another step. Still. Within seconds. “Sonofabitch. the peat mire had taken in his leg up to the knee. he’d never get to the cottage. When he stepped forward. Jack’s gasping breath mixed with her name. “No!” The woman’s plea shot into the darkness. Jack took a small step to the left and his foot sunk in. 147 . He managed to latch onto a low hanging branch and pull out.” he whispered to the ground. “Cala!” The sound barely moved past his lips.instantly sank. Dammit. but pulled back. He moved to the right and found the ground solid. the ground was soft again. The damn bog was everywhere. he had no other choice but to slowly pick his way over the ground to the cottage. He lifted his foot to take a step. but his heart screamed the name. there has to be a way into the cottage. At this rate.

“You’ll never have me. His gaze slowly traveled over her face and down her neck to settle on her breasts.” “You can’t take the power from me. his mouth just inches from hers and his breath fanning her face.” Cala shouted in Michael’s face. “Nay.” Michael released a coarse laugh with his answer. “You’re insane.Chapter 24 “You bloody bastard! You’ll have to kill me first. Michael answered. She glared at him. “I can with the knowledge of the ancient ones. but she wouldn’t give him the pleasure of seeing her pain. Ya have it. He squeezed hard. “If there was time. Pinned between the wall and Michael’s hard body. just as I did then. “Ya already know that I could. not caring about the spittle she sent splashing against his cheeks.” She jerked her head back hard and banged it against the wall. The man before her wasn’t 148 . it will be mine. Michael slashed her with a wide smile. ya’re the one that still holds the power.” He hooked his finger under her chin and leaned in close.” she strained through her teeth. and when I’m finished with ya. ’tis not as if we haven’t done it before. With his smile still wide. She knew he was telling the truth. but Cala ground her teeth together to keep a scream from exploding.” she seethed. and ya didn’t stop me.” Cala corrected. He did know the secrets.” Cala couldn’t stop the fear from jumping into her eyes. but she ignored the pain. but ’tis the reins of the family that I want this time around.” His hand slid up her rib cage and clamped down on her breast. I’d prove ya wrong. “Not in this lifetime.” Cala refused to show her fear. she struggled against the ropes that bound her hands behind her back. She narrowed her eyes against his as she said. “Why. “I know. I can feel it when I touch ya.” His fingers dug into her breast again.” he said through curled lips.” “Ellen has control now. I could easily have ya now. “Ya struggled eight hundred years ago. He took a step forward and further imprinted his body on hers. “Nay. She wanted to close her eyes. I’m only a man who doesn’t let incidentals get in me way. secrets that if used today would destroy not only the gift but also all in the Donegal family.

Cala’s heart cried to him.” Jack said in a low whispered growl. He narrowed his eyes and watched as a figure stepped out into the night. he wasn’t going to allow that to happen. all will be mine. “Tonight. What Michael didn’t understand was. I’ll have yar power and the family will be mine. all but one. Michael stepped to the water barrel and filled a pail. Jack had more power than any of them. Jack tried frantically to search the ground before him. “Soon. His body reeked with arrogance. she still feared him. the family would perish once again because of Michael. Now. forcing him to drop to the ground. but the darkness made it impossible. Jack. he’d murdered for the power King Henry’s reward would bring him. No one. 149 . A familiar memory rushed forward and crashed down on him. He’d seen the puca stallion at the forest edge. the scent of decaying leaves filled his senses. A long. Just as he touched solid ground. but without him here to protect them. insane bastard who took the lives of every Donegal his sword touched. This time.” “Michael. lean masculine outline stood in the doorway. Lying with his face pressed to the damp ground. the same man who used her body for months afterward with regard only to his own pleasure. Even a weakened form of her power would be enough to force his control over all.the Michael she’d known all her life.” Michael confirmed the horrible truth. Yet. power stolen through death wasn’t as strong as power freely given. His shoulders were squared and his backbone stiff. For a moment. he’d do it again for the power the gift would bring. This was the murdering. He’d seen the spirits before Samhain. he’d soon be an unstoppable evil. Then. He wasn’t sure whether he was going around in circles or in a straight line. the cottage door swung wide. had seen those things. not even Kaite. The cottage was too far away for the light straining through the window to be of any help. Back then he lost her. the scent paralyzed him. beneath the full moon. He pulled his face from the ground and refused to go into the past. Jack was the true leader of the Donegals. Light flooded the area. then turned to the darkness and looked out into the night.

Michael sat hunched over an old planked table. but in her 150 . It reached down to the ground at Jack’s feet. his foot sank into the earth. He looked up at the clouds rolling over the opaque night sky. When he did. How in the hell could he rescue her with this shit all around him? Step after careful step. White-hot anger boiled his blood. Once his steps matched the light’s pace. loading a gun and Jack strained his eyes to get a better look. That bastard must have given it to Michael. he saw that Michael’s back was still rolled over the gun. she slowly bent her body forward and lifted her face to the light. A small trickle of dried blood touched the corner of her mouth. Michael swaggered back into the cottage. The sight of her battered face sent a rage that strangled Jack’s lungs and squeezed the breath out of him. he crouched down and slowly made his way around the back of the building to a single window. his foot touched soft ground..Jack shook with need to smash Michael into the ground. The tiny spark of light winked back and slowly swelled. Sean had been in on this with Michael the whole goddamn time. but something about the way her spine stiffened told Jack she knew he was there. Cala was tied to a chair in a dark corner of the single room house. Jack jumped to his feet and balled the fists that hung at his sides. Every rippling muscle in his body screamed for revenge. The sound of the latch bolting into place echoed in the trees.” Jack begged. As Michael slid the clip into the handle. but the time wasn’t right. “Please help. Inside.. The flash of light slapped into Jack’s eyes. Then. One cloud parted from the others and a single tiny star twinkled down at him. As he took a step. Peter’s gun! Cala said that Sean had taken care of. it traced an uneven pattern toward the house. Slowly. It began to fall into place. He ducked below the window’s edge and waited a few seconds before chancing to lift his head back up. Finally at the door. anyway. not yet. it was marking a path! He raced to catch up. “Dammit. he moved quickly toward the cottage. the light from the hearth sparked against the shiny metal.” he whispered. Its shaft widened until it formed a channel of translucent light. Jesus Christ. Cala’s face was in the shadows. A large black bruise covered the left side of her face.

He wanted this to be a one-on-one battle. The moment had arrived to create a new karma. Jack ached to run to her and scoop her up in his arms. Slowly. 151 . While the murky vapor digested the midnight moon.” The heavily whispered name was followed by another whistle. Overhead. she did know he was there. grabbed her arm and jerked her onto her feet. black clouds moved across the frosted moon’s face like a gossamer shroud. He reached down. I’m the one with the power now. she moved her head from side to side. he had to cut the numbers another way. When she stumbled and fell face forward onto the ground. Somehow. “No. There was no mistaking Sean’s voice. but Jack wasn’t sure who else might be with him. the light touching the points of his face benchmarked his anger. he saw the same strength she’d shown him that day in the pub. Jack knew what made it that way and he wasn’t afraid. the odds weren’t in Jack’s favor. When he crumpled down below the window. piercing whistle.eyes. As Michael loomed over Cala. from the forest’s black edge came a single. and still she was trying to protect him. Jack nodded back and watched her shoulders sag with a heavy sigh. “I don’t believe ya’ve a choice in the matter. With her hands bound behind her. The bastard will pay for every single tear she’s shed. his stomach churned at the thought of what Michael had done to her. Michael. Cala could do nothing but lay curled in the wide beam of light that rushed out of the open door. but with the gun glinting in Michael’s hand. He drew in a long breath. every muscle in Jack’s body quaked. Suddenly. Instead. Jack thought about surprising Michael. but who knew how many men were out there with Sean? Michael whipped Cala around and towed her into the forest. quick. and nothin’ can stop me. The sound of Cala’s scream pierced through the darkness.” Michael’s voice spiked the evil sheen glistening in his eyes. She was trying to warn him. This time wouldn’t be his turn to die. Jack’s heart vowed. Jack flattened himself in the shadow of the building. The night air felt heavy in his lungs. “Michael. I’ll not let you do this!” The door of the cottage flew open and Cala was thrown out into the night. God. he stood silently cursing.

The stones! 152 .“Where are they taking her?” Jack whispered into the darkness. The answer came to him as if someone had pressed their lips to his ear and screamed the words.

Only their megalith king in the center stood erect. but instead Jack waited until Cala’s screams were softened by distance. Jack knew who the lone unmoving figure was. “That bastard won’t win.” Jack sandwiched the vow between the loud crashing waves of the angry sea below. The cold air stung his lungs and ripped at his throat. His body rocked with exhaustion as he struggled to level his breathing. Blackness covered the area. but his anger kept him warm. As he ran. even buried in her red robe. too weary from the battle of time to stand at attention. Jack raced across the plowed. Michael barked orders to Sean. for centuries to come. From that position. Not in this lifetime. Only a fifty-foot stretch of ground divided Jack from the stone circle. so he pumped his legs hard to make up as much time as he possibly could. two figures moved about. he carefully followed their path into the forest. There. but he ignored everything except the thought of Cala. he concentrated fully on making his way over the treacherous surface. he could easily slip into the circle’s dark center without being seen. When he crested the last rolling hill. When he reached the boulders that lined the shore. while one stood stiff and alone. yet still be hidden from anyone below. a motor purred to life. One miscalculated step on the loose shale could send him crashing over the steep cliff. The ancient ring of stones looked like tired old soldiers. frost-crusted fields. Even with his mind on climbing. 153 . he couldn’t help but remember the look in Cala’s eyes. he remembered the ridge that overlooked the stones. he dropped to the ground. Near the altar.Chapter 25 He wanted to run after them. so he’d have no trouble getting into position behind the mammoth boulder. He knew the shortcut over the rocky crags would slow him down. he’d have the high point advantage. The instant Jack broke free of the rocks. The night was crisp and the ground cold. Their thunderous cracks were the exclamation points to his lethal oath. In the distance. Then. Cala. but Sean mumbled his replies as he quickly moved about. Night shadows blanketed the valley below. he took off running across the final uphill stretch of open land. Cala’s cries covered the sound of Jack’s footsteps rustling through the dried leaves. as he always would.

Slowly. Together. yar servants.” she screamed. “Take this as a symbol of our need to return to the old ways. The shimmer of candlelight rippled over the silky surface as she struggled against the ropes that bound her hands behind her back. red material fell away. Sean reached down and wound the rope around her ankles. As Michael and Sean were occupied with the ritual. they lifted her atop the altar. Take this life we offer ya and seal our covenant with ya. Her eyes locked with his with pinpoint accuracy. began the ritual by calling upon the old ones. Cala fought against Sean’s hands. The men secured the ropes to the ancient riggings which limited her movement. exposing her naked body to the night. Jack carefully stood and flattened his body against the stones’ back. With their backs to Jack. Michael would never leave this sacred place alive. dressed in long brown robes. Both men. have come to offer ya this gift of life.A few items already occupied the far side of the granite altar: a dagger. and three tall flickering candles. She twisted and turned her body but it was useless. He tipped his head slightly to see around the stone. Jack still wasn’t sure what he was going to do. The candles had enough strength to illuminate only the faces of the nearest stones.” Michael commanded. She wasn’t just fighting Michael for her life. Jack watched as Michael’s knife slit the belt of Cala’s robe. we. She was fighting for the lives of every person in the family. The thick. damp ground to the feet of the majestic ruler. he was sure of one thing. Jack’s body quaked with rage. He dragged in a deep breath. she turned to Jack. “Lift her.” Michael shouted. Sean and Michael moved to Cala’s side at the foot of the altar. “I give my 154 . “’Tis an act that will destroy the family. The air was hot with the malignancy of hatred that lived off the souls of men. Jack slipped over the ridge and slithered along the hard. a large gold cup. but whatever it was. Then he heard her voice in his head. Using it as a shield. All the other giants remained eerily masked in darkness. “Lugh. When Michael ran the tip of his dagger between her breasts.” Cala’s hood fell back and her long black hair tumbled about her small shoulders.

As he continued to watch her breathing.power unto you. Not like lightening. “Blessed Oak moon.. as we were in the beginnin’. Jack’s heart stopped. The force pinned him against the megalith. “An doras. The rest only the devil could know. Christ. Sean and Michael hurried to get things in place for the ritual. your light washes over me and consecrates me. Her chest was still rhythmically moving up and down.” She turned her head away and looked straight up at the starless sky. Michael and Sean both stood staring up at the opening while Jack’s gaze fell onto Cala’s still body. Why in the hell is she screaming for the door? She pushed out two more sharp. it can’t be her soul. but in his head Cala’s soft voice instructed him to stay quiet and wait. There was no mistaking that Michael’s powers were strong. I draw you down to shield your servant from all evils here.” “YA’LL NOT BE A LEAVIN’!” Michael commanded. He heart.. The first would be a sacrifice. your child. His heart raced. The door? Jack wondered. Michael stood at the foot of the altar with his back to Jack while Sean nervously shifted from side to side. and each throbbing beat filled his ears.” she screamed out. then darted straight to Jack.. Jack was sure neither saw the curling gossamer stream lifting up over their heads. a small slice of light cracked in the black sky. Jack bit his lower lip to keep the gasp from escaping as a sudden surge of scalding heat raced through his body.. Somewhere in the space between the thundering beats of his heart. “I’m not able to be watchin’. Jack could feel the 155 . Cala’s voice said. begging screams then fell silent. Jack now understood. Above the stone soul.” Cala had argued how their ancestors had worshiped in a way that was right for them. arching her back and pulling her bound feet away from Michael’s reach. He was too mesmerized to move as it slammed into his chest. The translucent ribbon curled over and above them. We are one. Michael planned to revive those ancient dark rituals. yet she lay catatonic on the flat surface. but like a knife poking its point into thick black velvet. a tiny wisp of smoke spiraled its way out from the center of her chest. What the hell was happening? He wanted to scream out.

Prayers tumbled from her heart and out her mouth. but instead of looking up into Michael’s angry contorted face. That one act would forever throw the Donegals into the pit of darkness. Something suddenly jolted her body and the swirl stopped. Was that her body. As she hovered in the stagnant space between the two worlds. If Jack failed to stop Michael.” Cala’s eyes turned up to the blackness. Calatin. and the Donegals would never again see the gift. oh Kaite. Once again. Tonight. The words were a strange amalgamation of Gaelic and English. Tonight. this stone had soaked up the life’s blood of her ancestor’s sacrifices. The small rip in the starless sky had widened. drawing her into its center. She snapped her eyes open. she was looking down at the scene below. every soul in the dark plain would be forever lost.charged air filling the stone circle. Now she was powerless to fight the force that pulled her down. “What has happened to me?” Cala screamed. the karma would change. Cala wanted to scream for him to run to the safety of the grove. but she couldn’t. Cala’s mind began to spin. have I entered the dark plain?” Cala asked in a trembling whisper. They surged out of her like a torrent river racing to the ocean. They’d come full circle. 156 . and her stomach followed.” Then her prayers became silent ones. The evil that walked the silent nights would be unleashed. “Don’t be afraid. There were no wounds she could see. Michael would again offer a sacrifice.” she cried out. but why was she looking down from above? “Oh God. She’d passed over into the next plain. “Kaite. but her desire to know the truth was far greater. she called out to every saint she could remember and to every soul she knew who still waited in the dark plain. Once. and Jack was ready to take on eternity to keep Cala safe. What was happening? She’d used every ounce of her strength to send her power to Jack. She was afraid to hear the answer. and inside the patch of light. She knew what part she’d play this time around. A swirl of bright blinding bars spiraled before her. destiny had decreed a sacrifice must be made to save the family. Repeatedly. or some shell stretched out on the gray altar? Had Michael plunged his dagger into her heart? She ran her gaze over the body. “Mas e do thoil! Please stop Michael from destroying the gift of Tirnageata. Kaite’s smiling face took shape.

” Kaite was reading what had been in Cala’s heart. The family must be saved at all costs. He wasn’t just dressed as a Druid priest. Once again. the plain of the present ’tis no longer ours. We’re now a part of the next. We’re nay permitted to be helpin’ him. “Conchobhair gave us the gift but ya know ’twas truly a curse. I felt myself dyin’ without him. He lined his hardened gaze to the altar. but her eyes stayed soft. I draw the moon into me. Jack knows what has to be done. a curse to lock the Donegals to Tirnageata forever.“Ya’re only here temporarily. ’Tis work for the livin’. isn’t there somethin’ you or the others can do?” Kaite’s smile disappeared. Yarself and I were really the true sacrifices. nay the dead. He ended the anthem as both ends of the circle met. He’d keep control until the right moment. “I am one with the sun. Jack listened. He was the priest. Cala felt the coldness of the stone pressing against her back. and love is the answer to all thin’s. “Don’t you understand that Michael will release the evil from the other side? Please. and never again to share in the precious gift. I am divinity incarnate. “I’ve loved Jack with all my heart and soul. there’s only love. “Give him all yar love and that alone will keep ya safe. She had felt the pain the velvet prison of the gift had brought to her. he repeated a mantra. “’Tis that love that will save him. there’s nothin’ to stop Michael from makin’ it permanent. The ebony night skies outlined Michael’s hooded form to perfection. Doesn’t that mean anythin’ to you?” Cala begged. his lean body moved about with a measured confidence.” A sadness came over Kaite’s face. but without Jack’s help.” “But the family will be forever thrown into darkness.” Suddenly.” Both Kaite’s face and her voice began to fade until only a whisper remained. Help him save the family. she was looking up into the intense hatred of Michael’s eyes. he’d unleash the rage inside him. but when that came. Then he moved to stand before the altar and Cala’s outstretched body. “Child.” “Please Kaite. help Jack. Here. Cala dropped her gaze and watched Michael stretch his arms to the sky. Do not waste your time with me.” The aura of soft light around Kaite’s head swelled.” he announced loudly. As Michael trekked around the altar and carefully sprinkled an unbroken trail of pine needles and holly to form a tight circle.” “My sweet Calatin. Draped in the long flowing robe. 157 .

Jack leapt out from behind the giant stone and slammed the rock against the back of Sean’s head. letting his head roll back and turning his face to the black heavens. but his gut told him that the dagger. Slowly. His fingers moved over the hard dirt but stopped when they touched something icy-cold. That mindset might help Jack take Sean out of the picture. “Lugh! Lugh! Lugh! Let us now begin the journey!” Michael lifted the dagger high to the sky. wide shield of protection. “Dana! Earth is the womb of life. Michael stretched his arms up to the midnight sky. Once upright.” The next quarter turn brought Michael back to face the altar. When it was wrapped in his hand. “Lugh! Fire is the light of life. Cloak me in yar mantle of fiery power. would play a major role in it. “Dagda! Air is the breath of life. 158 . “Powerful Lugh.” Michael shouted and then turned another quarter turn to the right. Jack used a pitched megalith to hide his rise to his feet. He turned his body a quarter turn to the right and called out. I’m here to worship in the ancient ways. but unfortunately.” The frigid night air carried Michael’s shouting words far across the black rolling landscape. “Behold. I call upon yar mighty spirit to come into the circle now. blessed of the sun. At the exact moment.” Michael paused. Michael again turned to the right. Jack slithered along the shadowed line until he reached a spot a few feet from Sean.” With his arms still raised high above his head. Me father. To make moon magic and to invoke primal power.The way the police chief stood at the edge of the candlelight was a clear statement he wasn’t completely in favor of what was going on. It was loose enough for him to pry it up with his fingers. me lord. He wasn’t sure what the hell came next. Jack flattened himself to the ground. “Ceridwen! Water is the giver of life. Positioned at the foot of the altar. Jack shifted the rock in his hand to get a better grip. the gun Sean had tucked inside his waistband might pose a problem. Jack folded at the knees and began feeling the ground around him. He waited. He followed the outline of the stone.” Jack stretched his neck to see what was happening. “Come unite with me!” While Michael placed his petition before Lugh. now back in Michael’s hand.

he turned. The swirling black mass swelled until an outline of three large phantoms unfurled from the dark dimension. Jack’s heart thundered. but Jack knew the truth that lay beyond that veil. Jack stuffed his handkerchief into Sean’s mouth and took the gun. He stumbled backwards a step as he tried desperately to escape the evil spewing from Michael’s eyes. Anger shot from Michael’s eyes while the three black figures stood at his side. It felt as if he was being turned inside out. All the while. When Michael’s prayers became louder and more demanding. but to be safe he stripped Sean’s shoelaces and tied his hands and feet. the air reeked with an odor that was thick enough to choke on. Spikes of self-hatred sent him crashing to the ground. Keeping his head low. He pulled on the strength in his heart and forced his head and body up.Sean crumpled to the ground. Jack turned his gaze skyward and stretched 159 . Jack pulled on the strength that Cala had given him. As the forms slowly floated over the ground. No longer strangled by his fear. Jack removed Sean’s robe and carefully moved to the spot where Sean had been standing. Suddenly. Jack knew the knock would keep him out for a while. Look at the truth in your heart. “Evil has no power over those who know the truth. glaring at Jack from beneath their hoods. he listened to the ancient Gaelic prayers Michael offered. Jack kept his eyes locked on Michael. “Lugh!” The stream of Michael’s breath hung in the air like icy smoke. Jack heard Cala’s command. From the corner of Jack’s eyes. His shame forced him to curl into a ball and cover his head like a beaten child. His eyes snapped to Michael’s back and Michael immediately spun around.” Evil was the veil that layered men’s hearts. he caught a shadow moving in the darkness. Their eyes locked and Jack’s knees weakened as Michael’s mind grabbed hold of Jack’s fear and squeezed it. A cruel and wicked smile lined his lips. As Michael asked Lugh to bless the instrument that would bring a sacrifice to him. His fingers tightened around the gun’s handle. Every sin Jack had ever committed stabbed into his heart. Terror lodged in his lungs. Jack heard a voice laced with evil laughter call out his name. Through the tormented cries his heart gave out.

The force of the blow sent Michael flying over the corner of the altar. as Jack’s body crashed forward against the stone and the knife flew into the air. together they rolled over the icecrusted ground.his arms out. Michael’s arms fell to his side and his eyes widened. Over and over again. As it fell to the ground. the black sky cracked wide. and the knife tumbled to the ground. There was only one way to her. I’m heartily sorry for having offended thee. the blade struck the edge of the stone and sent a reverberating clatter that peeled on the cold air like a bell.” He used every ounce of strength to get the words out. Jack answered with one of his own. The three apparitions were no longer at Michael’s side. A flash of lights sparked in his head and the coppery taste of blood filled his mouth. “Oh my God. As Jack struggled to suck in a gasping breath. Cala shot up to a sitting position and watched helplessly. a sudden pain exploded in his back. When Michael’s body went limp. Michael shoved Jack and grabbed hold of the front of the woolen robe he wore. the barrage of light pounded the earth. with her feet still bound. With the element of surprise in his favor. An explosion of blinding white light flooded the circle of stones and the ground trembled beneath Jack’s feet. As the last syllable fell from Jack’s lips. but the magnitude of each burst blinded him. In a single blur of motion. Jack’s only thought was to free the woman he loved. Repeatedly they pummeled each other’s bodies with punches. He fought hard to keep his vision fixed on Cala. One caught Jack in the jaw. His mouth gaped in shock. Alone at the foot of the altar. when at last it stopped. The bite 160 . he captured the knife and sliced through the ropes that bound Cala’s wrists. trying to adjust to the limited mellow candlelight. His eyes slashed at Michael. Just as he moved the knife to the bindings around her ankles. but it was enough to give Michael the advantage. Jack thought the fight was over. That was the only mistake he’d made. Jack realized that he had only a second to get to Cala before Michael could fathom what had happened. Each fist Michael threw. Jack dove headfirst into Michael’s side. Jack repeatedly blinked his eyes. Michael sent him another crushing blow. He shook it off and cut his closed fist across Michael’s mouth.

Jack listened to the soft sound of Cala’s voice. ’Tis truly over once and for all. With his fist in ready drive into Michael’s face. “The eternal law now has a new path to follow and death isn’t a part of it. Michael’s eyes widened and his knees folded.” Cala was right. 161 . Jack centered all his strength into his fist. When he slammed it onto Michael’s chest. Jack’s breath lodged in his chest. His eyes stayed locked with hers. “It’s over.Michael had on the material didn’t leave enough room for Jack to pull away. Jack followed Michael’s body to the ground. The troubled sigh she released was like a caress that gently pushed aside his anger. Jack rhythmically hurled punches into Michael’s blank face.” Cala whispered. The rage in his heart overflowed into his eyes. Michael would live because of Cala and so would Jack’s soul. She softly smiled and took his arm to help him rise to his feet. In the tinted hue. Karma changed this night. giving everything around him a red glaze. Jack had to destroy the evil forever. he could see how her face creased. Jack. Blinded by rage. but the force with which he threw his next jab did. yet her eyes reflected the pain and sorrow she held in her heart. Suddenly. Jack’s arm was stopped in mid-swing and he turned. startled.

but we’ll be back for every Samhain celebration. He turned her in his arms.” Cala stretched her head around and kissed his cheek. “Destiny has brought us full circle. but our destiny is to return. “Was that Joyce you were quotin’?” Cala asked. At times we’re reduced to only a trickle. Once. Jack and Cala stood in the soft gray light of the grove.” “Sounds like I’m marryin’ a poet. “You’re looking out into the trees like you’re searching for a memory you put away a long time ago. taking in Cala’s sweet fragrance. but because of love. Teachers such as Cala. Niall.Chapter 26 As the ancient oak trees looked on. Shafts of sunlight danced through the trees’ bare branches and shimmered in her 162 . turning her lips to his. “We’re like water. ya are that. He held the rich scent in his lungs.” Jack’s gaze moved to the flock of geese paddling across the small stream. The way is full of rocks and stones that make us tumble. forcing a brogue into his words.” Jack’s heart overflowed with love. Jack moved to Cala’s back and circled her waist with his arms. Kaite and Conner helped Jack reach that goal. Jack chuckled. but eventually we journey back to ourselves. He learned people are here for one sole purpose. “Pure Donegal. Peter. to learn how to love.” She closed her eyes and smiled. he found life.” Jack answered. “The earth shall forget the pain of furrows plowed ere I shall forget the lessons I’ve learned. The day before. The prosecutor and Gerard expressed the interest in seeing that both brothers would be jailed for a very long time. “I know leaving Tirnageata will be hard on you.” “Aye.” Jack said before he brushed a soft kiss against the column of her throat. ’tis a happy endin’ we’re livin’. for it will always be in my heart. We travel to many different places in many different conditions. Michael and Sean were taken away and charged with attempted murder. a simple lesson. “I’m not leaving Tirnageata. Life wasn’t something that just happens. and eddies that delay our journey. He inhaled deeply. he’d thought that this was to be the place of his death. Only this time. “Then every Irishman has a poet’s heart. An investigation into the death of Constable Shamus O’Neil had also been ordered.” Jack tightened his grip.” She smiled and rolled her head back onto his shoulder.

Together. “One heart. one love. He brushed his knuckles down the line of her jaw. one soul. their contract would be fulfilled. When he pulled back and looked into her upturned face. “Until the end of time. they completed the vow. This time.” he began. “I’ve loved you from the beginning of time.eyes.” 163 .” She was his true companion. her beauty reeled in his mind. the one he had come back to be with.

and experiencing the thrill of becoming a grandparent. Becoming a wife. sent her dream into hibernation.About the Author Sloan wasn't sure when her dream of becoming an author had been sparked. 164 .) There is no luck where there is discipline. as life in the southwest suburbs of Chicago took center stage. raising a family. (Ni Bhionn an rath ach mar a mbionn an smacht. while wrapped in the love and support of her family. Sloan awoke her aspiration. Then. Yet as a teenager. she lives by an Irish proverb. she’d learned how to feel comfortable with pen and paper in hand. Yet. writing to a very special friend in the service. She'll be the first to say she's a lucky woman. and she’s living proof of that. One thing she insists is that one should NEVER give up on a dream. Many years passed.

165 .

Risking everything to get their message heard. In Outrage.Com Also available at all fine bookstores… Outrage: We The People by Michael Bret Hood Discontented with the state of the union. ISBN 0-9728450-3-8) 166 . (Storm Front Imprint. 'We the people' takes on a whole new meaning.Making Waves in the Publishing World Visit BaycrestBooks. a group of American citizens from various walks of life called 'The Patriots' decide to stop commercial and federal corruption by taking matters into their own hands. the group pushes the issues that face many American's today and demand change from the lawmakers who took an oath to govern the country.

erotic bond between the two women and they embark on a friendship that deepens with each passing day. Abby Dean. a national lesbian periodical. editor-in-chief of Expressions Magazine. Both women struggle with a painful past to forge ahead and create a new future. Abby realizes that she's not the only one that needs saving. ISBN 0-9728450-2-X) Inferno by Trish Shields Chicago in the summertime can be a tinderbox. (One-In-Ten Imprint. Not only is the move itself unnerving but Mel must face her ailing mother and her bigoted sister whom she hasn't spoken to in years. moves back to her hometown outside of Chicago.Contractor for Hire by CN Winters Melissa Wright. Andrea ‘Dray’ Khalkousa. There is an instant. As the layers that hide the tormented heart and soul of the firefighter are slowly peeled away. ISBN 0-9728450-1-1) 167 . (One-In-Ten Imprint. When she hires Karen Riggs to construct a new house she finds that Karen isn't without her share of problems and heartache. a female firefighter from a local fire hall finds more than she bargained for when she meets a mysterious homeless young woman.

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