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A child carries one man's blood, another man's name. After an ill-advised tryst beneath the night-time Maryland sky, Colter Ahern leaves his love Kitty Forbes behind to seek his fortune in Ireland as a horse trainer. When Kitty learns Colter also left a child behind, she has to make a choice that will change their lives forever. Reunited after thirteen years in the small town of Westminster, Maryland, Colter and Kitty realize their passion burns as hot as ever, but vow to resist it. Kitty's husband, the man who had saved her child by marrying her, crazed with jealousy and tormented by a terminal illness, seeks to reach beyond the grave to keep Colter and Kitty apart. When the child they all love is put in danger, can Colter and Kitty save him?
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.49(d)|
Read an Excerpt
As he'd promised, Colter took Liam to town the next afternoon for boots.
They should have come into town earlier in the morning, he thought as he toweled his forehead with his handkerchief.
Great rolling streams of sweat flowed between his shoulder blades to pool somewhere around where his belt held his pants up. Colter didn't remember it being quite so hot in June. But then, thirteen years on the Emerald Isle hadn t made a typical Maryland summer any easier to take, either. He quickened his step to catch up to his son, who was already running into the store.
Liam didn't seem to have any trouble with the weather.
Children adjusted. Colter wondered if he ever would. Peggy had been dead for a year now, yet he still felt guilty for not being the husband she deserved, for letting Kitty haunt him all those years. Maybe some of that guilt came from finding it hard to remember her. For once in his life, he wished Ahern men weren't always the image of their fathers. He'd like a bit of Peggy to remember.
"C'mon, Da." Liam stood at the door, waving frantically. "They have exactly what I need."
Colter grinned. Maybe there was something of his mother in him after all. Peggy had been the greatest shopper in all the British Empire.
"Ah, that's better, " he muttered as he stepped across the threshold into the slightly cooler interior of the store, and promptly lost his voice.
She stood at the shoe display, a girl of about ten close by her side.
"How about those shiny black ones, Blythe? Aren't they beautiful?"
She smiled the same smile, he noticed, it hadn't changed.
Nothing had changed. He reacted to her as though the last thirteen years had never happened.
"No mama. The sisters told us not to wear shiny shoes." The girl screwed up her face in exquisite confusion. "Why would they say that, Mama?"
She laughed. Her laugh was still full, deep-throated.
His shoes grew roots, anchoring him to his spot in front of the door. He blocked it but he didn't care. Kitty was here.
"Da," Liam's voice called out from the back of the store. "Come, on, Da. I found the boots."
Somehow, he made his voice work. "Coming, Liam."
She was bending over the girl's foot, helping her slip into a patent leather shoe. When he spoke, she snapped her head up and raised her eyes to meet his.
"Colter." It was a whisper, a prayer.
He very nearly gave in to his first impulse tuck back the tendril of her deep sable brown hair that had escaped the pins, then sweep her into his arms and kiss her senseless while he looked for the nearest available horizontal surface.
That was what he'd done the last time he'd seen her.
"Hello, Kitty." Did he really croak? He cleared his throat and wondered why that made her smile. "How are you?" There, that was a bit better.
Her eyes, the same stormy, gray-green, looked at him with a hunger he felt in the pit of his own stomach.
Somebody had better get control of himself here.
Think of her husband.
That did it. Anson always was able to put a damper on a good time, Colter thought. She still hadn't answered his polite question. The shoppers around them gave no signs that they noticed them practically undressing each other right here in the store.
Kitty regained her composure and extended her hand, just as she would have for any old acquaintance.
He took it and, besides noting how soft her hand still was, how small, how finely boned and delicate, he refused to notice anything at all. One firm squeeze was all he allowed himself before he dropped it.
"I'm just fine," she said, "thank you. And you, Colter, how have you been? Maeve told me about your wife and the baby. I'm so very sorry."
A conventional, polite remark, though he had no doubts she really meant it. He nodded. "Thank you." Should have been you, Kitty, he thought, then he wondered if he meant his wife or dead. Didn't matter. She belongs to another man and he's welcome to her.
"Maeve showed me a miniature of your son. He's an Ahern right enough." She smiled. Her teeth had always reminded him of a string of pearls. They were small, just the right size for her mouth, and white as a cloud on a summer day. He remembered, at the same time his body did, how she'd bitten his ear and neck.
"I'm afraid that's true. No escape for an Ahern," he said, thinking he'd made a grand joke. What was that expression on her face?
"Mother, can I have these?"
"May I," she corrected, her voice flat, her eyes locked with Colter's. Morbidly curious as to what sort of son Dexter might sire, Colter turned his attention to the boy who had come to stand by her side. One quick glance up and down, and his curiosity was transformed to numbed shock.
The boy was broad-shouldered and strongly built. He was a bit taller than Liam and probably a bit older, twelve or so. Wide, clear eyes of blue-gray gazed at Colter from a handsome face topped off by blue-black hair.
Rising from the hairline were just a few strands of white.
"Mother of God," Colter whispered.
He looked back at Kitty. Her eyes were begging him not to say anything.
Colter searched the boy for some sign that he d been mistaken, that this boy, Kitty s son, wasn't his own.
He shook his head. "Kitty, tell me it isn't true." His eyes locked with hers again.
She said nothing.
"What's wrong, Mother?" the boy asked in a tentative whisper.
Kitty turned to the boy. "This is an old friend of mine. I've known him since I wasn't much older than you are." She put her hands on the boy's wide shoulders and pushed him a little toward Colter. "This is Mr. Ahern, Philip."
"Colter Ahern?" The boy's eyes, steel blue gray identical to Colter's own opened wide, glowing with adoration.
Colter was nearly undone. He managed to control himself and extend his hand. "Aye, I'm that one. You ve heard of me then?"
"Oh sure," Philip said, barely breathing as he shook Colter's hand. "You're the greatest trainer in the world."
Colter smiled, even more pleased than he'd normally be.
"Well, I'm not sure I'm all that good."
"Wait'll I tell the guys."
Liam wandered up. "Da, what's taking you so long?"
Just as Kitty had a minute earlier, Colter laid his hands on Liam and introduced him to the woman who might have been, should have been, his mother.
"Liam, this is Mrs. Dexter. She's an old friend of mine."
Kitty smiled and extended her hand. "Hello, Liam."
Liam politely greeted her and shook her hand.
"And this is her son, Philip." Colter added the next introduction.
The boys sized each other up, then they, too, shook.
"You sure are lucky. Your father is famous."
Liam smiled and gazed up at his father proudly.
"Yeah, my da is the finest horse trainer in the world. There's not a horse he can't make a winner."
Kitty's expression needed little interpretation. And she was right, these boys could be twins.
"My da brought me to buy some new work boots," Liam said.
"Yeah? My mother brought me for new shoes too." They promptly walked off together, forgetting their parents, to look at the shoes.
Colter watched the two boys, feeling the thrill he'd experienced on the day of Liam's birth. Until the euphoria of discovery dissipated and he turned on her, anger quickly replacing joy. "Why didn't you let me know, Kitty?"
"I did. I sent you a letter. Then I got yours." She spread her hands in a gesture of futility. "What was I supposed to do, Colter?"
"You were supposed to wait, like I asked you to."
"Asked me? I don't remember being asked. You had everything figured out. Your life, my life." Her eyes were grayer now than green, a north Atlantic storm in full blast and her voice grew louder as she answered his accusation. "I did what I had to do."
They'd started to attract a crowd.
"Katherine." Melcia Forbes huffed her way toward them, Kitty's daughter and Philip in tow. The look she cast Colter made him feel twelve years old again. It was the look she always tossed at him, making him feel insignificant and monumentally out of place all at the same time. "Let's go, Katherine." Kitty gasped a quick breath. Her perfect teeth dug into her bottom lip and she looked at the floor.
"Come along, children." Her voice was raw and almost cracked.
As Philip passed by, Colter had to restrain himself from reaching out and taking the boy in his arms.
My son, he thought as they disappeared through the doors.
What People are Saying About This
Jo-Ann Power, Best Selling Author of Never Before and Never Again
A love story to stir your soul!. . .Heart-rending characters and heart-pounding plot!
Marilyn Grall, author of In Search of Amandaand Taming the Lion
Bloodlines is one of the best books I've read this year. A wonderful story full of richly textured characterizations and family dynamics, this story grips the reader at page one and never lets go. Congratulations, Ms. Manning. Bloodlines is a keeper!