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BOOK THREE OF THE GALLAGHERS OF ARDMORE TRILOGY
Walk with #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts in the shadow of an ancient tower and hear a story of dreams fulfilled and wishes come true…
Darcy Gallagher has always believed in the pull of fate, the magic of legend…and the importance of money. She longs to find a rich man who will sweep her away—into a world filled with glamour and adventure, and the exotic life that is her destiny…
A wealthy businessman with Irish blood, Trevor Magee has come to Ardmore to build a theater—and to uncover the secrets hidden in his family’s past. He thought he had given up on love long ago, but Darcy Gallagher tempts him like no woman ever has. She’s gorgeous and intelligent, and she knows what she wants—and he’s more than willing to give it to her. But as their mutual attraction flares into passion, they look into their hearts—and find out what happens when you truly believe.
Don't miss the other books in the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy
Jewels of the Sun
Tears of the Moon
About the Author
Date of Birth:1950
Place of Birth:Silver Spring, Maryland
Read an Excerpt
This novel is a work of fiction.
Lore and legend play a vital part in the history of Ireland. Song and story have been written of the faerie rafts and the Good People who live in those silver castles under the green hills. So it is those stories and those songs that make up a charming portion of Irish culture.
Trevor Magee’s people sprang from this, though they traveled across the sea to settle in America. And made their fortune. But like many whose roots are in those hills, Trevor is drawn back to the land of his ancestors. He will come to Ardmore to build his dream, a theater to showcase the art of his heritage.
To do so he’ll work with the Gallaghers, and use their traditional pub in his plans. In Heart of the Sea, he will live in a cottage where a ghost walks and waits for her true love. He will cross wits with a faerie prince who is determined to have his way at last.
And he will meet, deal with, and desire the intriguing and frustrating Darcy Gallagher.
All of her life she’s wanted more, and made no secret of her hope to find a rich man to give her a lush and exciting life. Now that she’s met him, it’s a matter of hearts that must be won. His as well as hers. Until they are, the spell that separates lovers holds fast.
Take a walk with me in the shadow of an ancient round tower. I’ll tell you what happened.
continued on next page . . .
Praise for Nora Roberts’s previous novels . . .
—The Washington Post Book World
—The Indianapolis Star
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
THE REEF On a search for treasure in the depths of the Caribbean, marine archaeologist Tate Beaumont is forced into an uneasy alliance with salvager Matthew Lassiter, a man who stirs up danger— and desire . . .
—The Denver Post
continued on next page . . .
SANCTUARY Jo Ellen Hathaway knows you can’t go home again—but to discover the truth behind her mother’s mysterious death, she has no choice . . .
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
—The Free Lance-Star
—The Cedar Rapids Gazette
And don’t miss Nora Roberts’s bestselling trilogies . . .
Titles by Nora Roberts
Her eyes they shone like diamonds, you’d think she was queen of the land.
—THE BLACK VELVET BAND
THE VILLAGE OF Ardmore sat snug on the south coast of Ireland, in the county of Waterford, with the Celtic Sea spread out at its feet. The stone seawall curved around, following the skirt of the golden-sand beach.
It boasted in its vicinity a pretty jut of cliffs upholstered with wild grass, and a hotel that clung to them. If one had a mind to, it was a pleasant if hearty walk on a narrow path around the headland, and at the top of the first hill were the ruins of the oratory and well of Saint Declan.
The view was worth the climb, with sky and sea and village spread out below. This was holy ground, and though dead were buried there, only one grave had its stone marked.
The village itself claimed neat streets and painted cottages, some with the traditional thatched roofs, and a number of steep hills as well. Flowers grew in abundance, spilling out of window boxes, baskets, and pots, and dooryards. It made a charming picture from above or below, and the villagers were proud to have won the Tidy Town award two years running.
Atop Tower Hill was a fine example of a round tower, with its conical top still in place, and the ruins of the twelfth-century cathedral built in honor of Saint Declan. Folks would tell you, in case you wondered, that Declan arrived thirty years before good Saint Patrick.
Not that they were bragging, they were just letting you know how things stood.
Those interested in such matters would find examples of ogham carving on the stones put for safekeeping inside the roofless cathedral, and Roman arcading faded with time and wind but still worth the study.
But the village itself made no attempt at such grandeur. It was merely a pleasant place with a shop or two and a scatter of cottages built back away from lovely sand beaches.
The sign for Ardmore said FAILTE, and that was “ welcome.”
It was that very combination of ancient history and simple character and hospitality that interested Trevor Magee.
His people had come from Ardmore and Old Parish. Indeed, his grandfather had been born here, in a small house very near Ardmore Bay, had lived the first years of his life breathing that moist sea air, had perhaps held his mother’s hand as she’d walked to the shops or along the surf.
His grandfather had left his village and his country, taking his wife and young son with him to America. He had never been back, and so far as Trevor knew, had never looked back either. There had been a distance and a bitter one, between the old man and the country of his birth. Ireland and Ardmore and the family Dennis Magee had left behind had rarely been spoken of.
So Trevor’s image of Ardmore had a ripple of sentiment and curiosity through it, and his reasons for choosing it had a personal bent.
But he could afford personal bents.
He was a man who built, and who, as his grandfather and father before him, built cleverly and well.
His grandfather had made his living laying brick, and made his fortune speculating on properties during and after World War II, until the buying and selling of them was his business, and the building done by those he hired.
Old Magee had been no more sentimental about his laborer’s beginnings than he had been about his homeland. To Trevor’s recollection, the man had shown no sentiment about anything.
But Trevor had inherited the heart and hands of the builder as much as the cool, hard sense of the businessman, and he had learned to use both.
He would use them both here, and a dash of sentiment as well, to build his theater, a traditional structure for traditional music, with its entrance the already established pub known as Gallagher’s.
The deal with the Gallaghers had been set, the ground broken for the project before he’d been able to hack through his schedule for the time he wanted to spend here. But he was here now, and he intended to do more than sign checks and watch.
He wanted his hands in it.
A man could work up a good sweat even in May in such a temperate climate when he spent a morning hauling concrete. That morning Trevor left the cottage he’d decided to rent for the duration of his stay wearing a denim jacket and carrying a steaming mug of coffee. Now, a handful of hours later, the jacket had been tossed aside, and a thin line of damp ran front and back down his shirt.
He’d have paid a hundred pounds for one cold beer.
The pub was only a short walk through the construction rubble. He knew from stopping in the day before that it did a brisk business midday. But a man could hardly quench his thirst with a chilly Harp when he forbade his employees to drink on the job.
He rolled his shoulders, circled his neck as he scanned the site. The concrete truck let out its continuous rumble, men shouted, relaying orders or acknowledging them. Job music, Trevor thought. He never tired of it.
That was a gift from his father. Learn from the ground up had been Dennis Junior’s credo, and the thirdgeneration Magee had done just that. For more than ten years—fifteen if he counted the summers he’d sweated on construction sites—he’d learned just what went into the business of building.
The backaches and blood and aching muscles.
At thirty-two, he spent more time in boardrooms and meetings than on a scaffold, but he’d never lost the appreciation, or the satisfaction of swinging his own hammer.
He intended to indulge himself doing just that in Ardmore, in his theater.
He watched the small woman in a faded cap and battered boots circle around, gesture as the wet concrete slid down the chute. She scrambled over sand and stone, used her shovel to rap the chute and alert the operator to stop, then waded into the muck with the other laborers to shovel and smooth.
Brenna O’Toole, Trevor thought, and was glad he’d followed his instincts there. Hiring her and her father as foremen on the project had been the right course of action. Not just for their building skills, he decided— though they were impressive—but because they knew the village and the people in it, kept the job running smoothly and the men happy and productive.
Public relations on this sort of project were just as vital as a sturdy foundation.
Yes, indeed, they were working out well. His three days in Ardmore had shown him he’d made the right choice with O’Toole and O’Toole.
When Brenna climbed out again, Trevor stepped over, extended a hand to give her a final boost.
“Thanks.” She sliced her shovel into the ground, leaned on it, and despite her filthy boots and faded cap, looked like a pixie. Her skin was pure Irish cream, and a few curls of wild red escaped the cap.
“Tim Riley says we won’t have rain for another day or two, and he has a way of being right about such things more than he’s wrong. I think we’ll have the slab set up for you before you have to worry about weather.”
“You made considerable progress before I got here.”
“Sure, and once you gave us the high sign there was no reason to wait. We’ll have you a good, solid foundation, Mr. Magee, and on schedule.”
“Aye, Trev.” She tipped back her cap, then her head so she could meet his eyes. She figured him a good foot higher than her five-two, even wearing her boots. “The men you sent along from America, they’re a fine team.”
“As I handpicked them, I agree.”
She thought his voice faintly aloof, but not unfriendly. “And do you never pick females then?”
He smiled slowly so it seemed that humor just moseyed over his face until it reached eyes the color of turf smoke. “I do indeed and as often as possible. Both on and off the job. I’ve put one of my best carpenters on this project. She’ll be here next week.”
“It’s good to know my cousin Brian wasn’t wrong in that area. He said you hired by skill and not gender. It’s a good morning’s work here,” she added, nodding to the site. “That noisy bastard of a truck will be our constant companion for a while yet. Darcy’ll be back from her holiday tomorrow, and I can tell you she’ll bitch our ears off about the din.”
“It’s a good noise. Building.”
“I’ve always thought the same.”
They stood a moment in perfect accord while the truck vomited out the last yard of concrete.
“I’ll buy you lunch,” Trevor said.
“I’ll let you.” Brenna gave a whistle to catch her father’s attention, then mimed spooning up food. Mick responded with a grin and a wave, then went back to work.
“He’s in his heaven,” Brenna commented as they walked over to rinse off their boots. “Nothing makes Mick O’Toole happier than finding himself in the middle of a job site, the muckier the better.”
Satisfied, Brenna gave her feet a couple of stomps, then headed around to the kitchen door. “I hope you’ll take some time to see the area while you’re here, instead of locking yourself into the job at hand.”
“I plan to see what’s around.” He had reports, of course—detailed reports on tourist draws, road conditions, routes to and from major cities. But he intended to see for himself.
Needed to see it, Trevor admitted to himself. Something had been pulling him toward Ireland, toward Ardmore, for more than a year. In dreams.
“Ah, now there’s a fine-looking man doing what he does best,” Brenna said when she pushed open the kitchen door. “What have you for us today, Shawn?”
He turned from the enormous old stove, a rangy man with shaggy black hair and eyes of misty blue. “For the special we’ve sea spinach soup and the beef sandwich. Good day to you, Trevor. Is this one working you harder than she should?”
“She keeps things moving.”
“And so I must, for the man in my life is slow. I wonder, Shawn, if you’ve selected another tune or two for Trevor’s consideration.”
“I’ve been busy catering to my new wife. She’s a demanding creature.” So saying, he reached out to cradle Brenna’s face and kiss her. “Get out of my kitchen. It’s confusing enough around here without Darcy.”
“She’ll be back tomorrow, and by this time of the day you’ll have cursed her a dozen times.”
“Why do you think I miss her? Give your order to Sinead,” he told Trevor. “She’s a good girl, and our Jude’s been working with her. She just needs a bit more practice.”
“A friend of my sister Mary Kate is Sinead,” Brenna told Trevor as she pushed open the door that swung between kitchen and pub. “A good-natured girl, if a bit scattered in the brain. She wants to marry Billy O’Hara, and that is the sum total of her ambitions at this time.”
“And what does Billy O’Hara have to say?”
“Being not quite so ambitious as Sinead, Billy keeps his mouth shut. Good day to you, Aidan.”
“And to you.” The oldest of the Gallaghers worked the bar and had his hands on the taps as he looked over. “Will you be joining us for lunch, then?”
“That we will. We’ve caught you busy.”
“God bless the tour buses.” With a wink, Aidan slid two pints down the bar to waiting hands.
“Do you want us to take it in the kitchen?”
“No need for that unless you’re in a great hurry.” His eyes, a deeper blue than his brother’s, scanned the pub. “Service is a mite slower than our usual. But there’s a table or two left.”
“We’ll leave it to the boss.” Brenna turned to Trevor. “How will you have it?”
“Let’s get a table.” The better to watch how the business ran.
He followed her out and sat with her at one of the mushroom-shaped tables. There was a buzz of conversation, a haze of smoke, and the yeasty scent of beer.
“Will you have a pint?” Brenna asked him.
“Not until after the workday.”
Her lips twitched as she kicked back in her chair. “So I’ve heard from some of the men. Word is you’re a tyrant on this particular matter.”
He didn’t mind the term “tyrant.” It meant he was in control. “Word would be correct.”
“I’ll tell you this, you may have a bit of a problem enforcing such a rule around here. Many who’ll labor for you were nursed on Guinness and it’s as natural to them as mother’s milk.”
“I’m fond of it myself, but when a man or woman is on my clock, they stick with mother’s milk.”
“Ah, you’re a hard man, Trevor Magee.” But she said it with a laugh. “So tell me, how are you liking Faerie Hill Cottage?”
“Very much. It’s comfortable, efficient, quiet, and has a view that rips your heart into your throat. It’s just what I was looking for, so I’m grateful you put me on to it.”
“That’s not a problem, not a problem at all. It’s in the family. I think Shawn misses the little kitchen there, as the house we’re building’s far from finished. More than livable,” she added, as it was one of their current sore points, “but I figure to concentrate on the kitchen there on my off days so he’ll be happier.”
“I’d like to see it.”
“Would you?” Surprised, she angled her head. “Well, you’re welcome any time. I’ll give you the direction. Do you mind me saying I didn’t expect you to be as friendly a sort of man as you seem to be?”
“What did you expect?”
“More of a shark, and I hope that doesn’t offend you.”
“It doesn’t. And it depends on the waters where I’m swimming.” He glanced over, and his face warmed as Aidan’s wife came up to the table. But when he started to rise, Jude waved him down again.
“No, I’m not joining you, but thanks.” She rested a hand on her very pregnant belly. “Hello, I’m Jude Frances and I’ll be your server today.”
“You shouldn’t be on your feet like this, carrying trays.”
Jude sighed as she took out her order pad. “He sounds like Aidan. I put my feet up when I need to, and I don’t carry anything heavy. Sinead can’t handle things on her own.”
“Not to worry, Trevor. Why me own blessed mother dug potatoes on the day I was born, then went back to roast them after the delivery.” At Trevor’s narrowed glance, Brenna chuckled. “Well, maybe not, but I’ll wager she could have. I’ll have today’s soup, if you don’t mind, Jude, and a glass of milk,” she added with a wicked smile for Trevor.
“The same,” he said, “plus the sandwich.”
“A fine choice. I’ll be right back with it.”
“She’s stronger than she looks,” Brenna told him when Jude moved to another table. “And more stubborn. Now that she’s found her direction, so to speak, she’ll only work harder to prove she can do what you tell her she shouldn’t. Aidan won’t let her overdo, I promise you. The man adores her.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed. The Gallagher men seem to be devoted to their women.”
“So they’d better be, or their women will know why.” Relaxed, she kicked back, pulled off her cap. Those red curls tumbled down. “So you aren’t finding it, I guess we’d say ‘too rustic’ for you—out in the countryside here after being used to New York City?”
He thought of the job sites he’d experienced: mud slides, floods, blistering heat, petty vandalism, and sabotage. “Not at all. The village is exactly what I expected after Finkle’s reports.”
“Ah, yes, Finkle.” She remembered Trevor’s scout very well. “Now there’s a man I believe prefers urban conveniences. But you’re not so . . . particular, then.”
“I’m very particular, depending. That’s why I incorporated most of your design into the theater project.”
“Now that’s a fine and sneaky compliment.” And nothing could have pleased her more. “I suppose I was angling more toward the personal. I have a special fondness for the cottage on Faerie Hill, and I wasn’t sure you’d find the place to your liking. Thinking, I suppose, a man with your background and wherewithal would be more inclined to settle at the cliff hotel with maid service and the restaurant and so forth.”
“Hotel rooms become confining. And I find it interesting to stay in the house where the woman who was engaged to one of my ancestors was born, and lived, and died.”
“She was a fine woman, Old Maude. A wise woman.” Brenna kept her eyes on Trevor’s face as she spoke. “Her grave’s up near the well of Saint Declan, and it’s there you can feel her. She’s not the one in the cottage now.”
Brenna lifted her eyebrows. “You don’t know the legend, then? Your grandfather was born here, and your father as well, though he was a babe when they sailed to America. Still, he visited many years back. Did neither of them tell you the story of Lady Gwen and Prince Carrick?”
“No. So it would be Lady Gwen who haunts the cottage?”
“Have you seen her?”
“No.” Trevor hadn’t been raised on legends and myths, but there was more than enough Irish in his blood to cause him to wonder about them. “But there’s a feminine feel to the place, almost a fragrance, so odds are for the lady.”
“You’d be right about that.”
“Who was she? I figure if I’m sharing quarters with a ghost, I should know something about her.”
No careless dismissal of the subject, no amused indulgence of the Irish and their legends, Brenna noted. Just cool interest. “You surprise me again. Let me see to something first. I’ll be right back.”
Fascinating, Trevor mused. He had himself a ghost.
He’d felt things before. In old buildings, empty lots, deserted fields. It wasn’t the kind of thing a man generally talked about at a board meeting or over a cold one with the crew after a sweaty day’s work. Not usually. But this was a different place, with a different tone. More, he wanted to know.
Everything to do with Ardmore and the area was of interest to him now. A good ghost story could draw people in just as successfully as a well-run pub. It was all atmosphere.
Gallagher’s was exactly the kind of atmosphere he’d been looking for as a segue into his theater. The old wood, blackened by time and smoke and grease, mated comfortably with the cream-colored walls, the stone hearth, the low tables and benches.
The bar itself was a beauty, an aged chestnut that he’d already noted the Gallaghers kept wiped and polished. The age of customers ranged from a baby in arms to the oldest man Trevor believed he’d ever seen, who was balanced on a stool at the far end of the bar.
There were several others he took as locals just from the way they sat or smoked or sipped, and three times that many who could be nothing other than tourists with their camera bags under their tables and their maps and guidebooks out.
The conversations were a mix of accents, but predominant was that lovely lilt he’d heard in his grandparents’ voices until the day they died.
He wondered if they hadn’t missed hearing it themselves, and why they’d never had a driving urge to come to Ireland again. What were the bitter memories that had kept them away? Whatever, curiosity about them had skipped over a generation and now had caused him to come back and see for himself.
More, he wondered why he should have recognized Ardmore and the view from the cottage and even now know what he would see when he climbed the cliffs. It was as if he carried a picture in his mind of this place, one someone else had taken and tucked away for him.
They’d had no pictures to show him. His father had visited once, when he’d been younger than Trevor was now, but his descriptions had been sketchy at best.
The reports, of course. There had been detailed photographs and descriptions in the reports Finkle had brought back to New York. But he’d known—before he’d opened the first file, he’d already known.
Inherited memory? he mused, though he didn’t put much stock in that sort of thing. Inheriting his father’s eyes, the clear gray color, the long-lidded shape of them, was one matter. And he was told he had his grandfather’s hands, and his mind for business. But how did a memory pass down through the blood?
He toyed with the idea as he continued to scan the room. It didn’t occur to him that he looked more the local than the tourist as he sat there in his work clothes, his dark blond hair tousled from the morning’s labor. He had a narrow, rawboned face that would put most in mind of a warrior, or perhaps a scholar, rather than a businessman. The woman he’d nearly married had said it looked to be honed and sculpted by some wild genius. The faintest of scars marred his chin, a result of a storm of flying glass during a tornado in Houston, and added to the overall impression of toughness.
It was a face that rarely gave anything away. Unless it was to Trevor Magee’s advantage.
At the moment it held a cool and remote expression, but it shifted into easy friendliness when Brenna came back toward the table with Jude. Brenna, he noted, carried the tray.
“I’ve asked Jude to take a few moments to sit and tell you about Lady Gwen,” Brenna began and was already unloading the order. “She’s a seanachais .”
At Trevor’s raised eyebrow, Jude shook her head. “It’s Gaelic for storyteller. I’m not really, I’m just—”
“And who has a book being published, and another she’s writing. Jude’s book’ll be out at the end of this very summer,” Brenna went on. “It’ll make a lovely gift, so I’d keep it in mind when you’re out shopping.”
“Brenna.” Jude rolled her eyes.
“I’ll look for it. Some of Shawn’s song lyrics are stories. It’s an old and honored tradition.”
“Oh, he’ll like that one.” Beaming now, Brenna scooped up the tray. “I’ll deal with this, Jude, and give Sinead a bit of a goose for you. Go ahead and get started. I’ve heard it often enough before.”
“She has enough energy for twenty people.” A little tired now, Jude picked up her cup of tea.
“I’m glad I found her for this project. Or that she found me.”
“I’d say it was a bit of both, since you’re both operators.” She caught herself, winced. “I didn’t mean that in a negative way.”
“Wasn’t taken in one. Baby kicking? It puts a look in your eye,” Trevor explained. “My sister just had her third.”
“Third?” Jude blew out a breath. “There are moments I wonder how I’m going to manage the one. He’s active. But he’s just going to have to wait another couple of months.” She ran a hand in slow circles over the mound of her belly, soothing as she sipped. “You may not know it, but I lived in Chicago until just over a year ago.”
He made a noncommittal sound. Of course he knew, he had extensive reports.
“My plan was to come here for six months, to live in the cottage where my grandmother lived after she lost her parents. She’d inherited it from her cousin Maude, who’d died shortly before I came here.”
“The woman my great-uncle was engaged to.”
“Yes. The day I arrived, it was raining. I thought I was lost. I had been lost, and not just geographically. Everything unnerved me.”
“You came alone, to another country?” Trevor cocked his head. “That doesn’t sound like a woman easily unnerved.”
“That’s something Aidan would say.” And because it was, she found herself very comfortable. “I suppose it’s more that I didn’t know my own nerve at that point. In any case, I pulled into the street, the driveway actually, of this little thatched-roof cottage. And in the upstairs window I saw a woman. She had a lovely, sad face and pale blond hair that fell around her shoulders. She looked at me, our eyes connected. Then Brenna drove up. It seemed I’d stumbled across my own cottage, and the woman I’d seen in the window was Lady Gwen.”
“That’s right, yes. It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Or certainly unreasonable. But I can tell you exactly what she looked like. I’ve sketched her. And I knew no more of the legend when I came here than you appear to know now.”
“I’d like to hear it.”
“Then I’ll tell you.” Jude paused as Brenna came back, sat, and tucked into her meal.
She had an easy way with a story, Trevor noted. A smooth and natural rhythm that put the listener into the tale. She told him of a young maid who’d lived in the cottage on the faerie hill. A woman who cared for her father, as her mother had been lost in childbirth, who tended the cottage and its gardens and who carried herself with pride.
Beneath the green slope of the hill was the silver glory of the faerie raft, the palace where Carrick ruled as prince. He was also proud, and he was handsome, with a flowing mane of raven-black hair and eyes of burning blue. Those eyes fell upon the maid Gwen, and hers upon him.
They plunged into love, faerie and mortal, and at night when others slept, he would take her flying on his great winged horse. Never did they speak of that love, for pride blocked the words. One night Gwen’s father woke to see her with Carrick as they dismounted from his horse. And in fear for her, he betrothed her to another and ordered her to marry without delay.
Carrick flew on his horse to the sun, and gathered its burning sparks in his silver pouch. When Gwen came out of the cottage to meet him before her wedding, he opened the bag and poured diamonds, jewels of the sun, at her feet. “Take them and me,” he said, “for they are my passion for you.” He promised her immortality, and a life of riches and glory. But never once did he speak, even then, of love.
So she refused him, and turned from him. The diamonds that lay on the grass became flowers.
Twice more he came to her, the next time when she carried her first child in her womb. From his silver pouch he poured pearls, tears of the moon that he’d gathered for her. And these, he told her, were his longing for her. But longing is not love, and she had pledged herself to another.
When she turned away, the pearls became flowers.
Many years passed before he came the last time, years during which Gwen raised her children, nursed her husband through his illness, and buried him when she was an old woman. Years during which Carrick brooded in his palace and swept through the sky on his horse.
He dived into the sea to wring from its heart the last of his gifts to her. These he poured at her feet, shimmering sapphires that blazed in the grass. His constancy for her. When now, finally, he spoke of love, she could only weep bitter tears, for her life was over. She told him it was too late, that she had never needed riches or promises of glory, but only to know that he loved her, loved her enough that she could have set aside her fear of giving up her world for his. And as she turned to leave him this time, as the sapphires bloomed into flowers in the grass, his hurt and his temper lashed out in the spell he cast. She would find no peace without him, nor would they see each other again until three times lovers met and, accepting each other, risking hearts, dared to choose love over all else.
He’d dreamed them.
He hadn’t told her that he, too, could have described Gwen, down to the sea green of her eyes and the curve of her cheek. He’d dreamed her as well.
And had, he realized, nearly married Sylvia because she’d reminded him of that dream image. A soft woman with simple ways. It should have been right between them, he thought as he headed upstairs to shower off the day’s dirt. It still irritated him that it hadn’t been. In the end, it just hadn’t been right.
She’d known it first, and had gently let him go before he’d admitted he already had his eye on the door. Maybe that was what bothered him most of all. He hadn’t had the courtesy to do the ending. Though she’d forgiven him for it, he’d yet to forgive himself.
He caught the scent the minute he stepped into the bedroom. Delicate, female, like rose petals freshly fallen onto dewy grass.
“A ghost who wears perfume,” he murmured, oddly amused. “Well, if you’re modest turn your back.” So saying, he stripped where he stood, then walked into the bath.
He spent the rest of his evening alone, catching up on paperwork, scanning the faxes that had come in on the machine he’d brought with him, shooting off replies. He treated himself to a beer and stood outside with it in the last of the dying light listening to the aching silence and watching stars pulse to life.
Tim Riley, whoever the hell he was, looked to be right. There was no rain coming yet. The foundation he was building would set clean.
As he turned to go back in, a streak of movement overhead caught his eye. A blur of white and silver across the darkening sky. But when he looked back for it, narrowing his eyes to scan, he saw nothing but stars and the rise of the quarter moon.
A falling star, he decided. A ghost was one thing, but a flying horse ridden by the prince of the faeries was another entirely.
But he thought he heard the cheerful lilt of pipes and flutes dance across the silence as he shut the door of the cottage for the night.
DARCY GALLAGHER DREAMED of Paris. Strolling along the Left Bank on a perfect spring afternoon with the scent of flowers ripe in the air and the cloudless blue sky soaring overhead.
And perhaps best of all, the weight of shopping bags heavy in her hands.
In her dreams she owned Paris, not for a brief week’s holiday, but for as long as it contented her. She could stop to while away an hour or two at a sidewalk cafeÉ, sipping lovely wine and watching the world—for it seemed the whole of the world—wander by.
Long-legged women in smart dresses, and the darkeyed men who watched them. The old woman on her red bicycle with her baguettes spearing up out of her bakery sack, and the tidy children in their straight rows marching along in their prim school uniforms.
They belonged to her, just as the wild and noisy traffic was hers, and the cart on the corner bursting with flowers. She didn’t need to ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower to have Paris at her feet.
As she sat sampling wine and cheese that had been aged to perfection, she listened to the city that was hers for the taking. There was music all around her, in the cooing of the ubiquitous pigeons and the swirling whoosh when they took wing, in the steady beep of horns, the click of high, thin heels on sidewalks, the laughter of lovers.
Even as she sighed, blissfully happy, the thunder rolled in. At the rumble of it, she glanced skyward. Clouds spewed in from the west, dark and thick. The brilliant sunlight fell into that false twilight that precedes a storm. The rumble became a roar that had her leaping to her feet even while those around her continued to sit, to chat, to stroll as if they heard or saw nothing amiss.
Snatching up her bags, she started to dash away, to safety, to shelter. And a bolt of lightning, sizzling blue at the edges, lanced into the ground at her feet.
She woke with a start, the blood pounding in her ears and her own gasp echoing.
She was in her own rooms over the pub, not in some freakish thunderstorm in Paris. She found some comfort in that, in the familiar walls and quiet light. Found more comfort when she sat up and saw the clothes and trinkets she’d treated herself to in Paris strewn around the room.
Well, she was back to reality, she thought, but at least she’d bagged a few trophies to bring home with her.
It had been a lovely week, the perfect birthday present to give herself. Indulgent, she admitted, taking such a big chunk of her savings that way. But what were savings for if a woman couldn’t use them to celebrate in a spectacular way her first quarter century of living.
She would earn it back. Now that she’d had her first good taste of real travel, she intended to experience it on a more regular basis. Next year, Rome, or Florence. Or perhaps New York City. Wherever it was, it would be someplace wonderful. She would start her Darcy Gallagher holiday fund this very day.
She’d been desperate to get away. To see something, almost anything that wasn’t what she saw every day of her life. Restlessness was a sensation she was accustomed to, even appreciated about herself. But this had been like a panther inside her, pacing and snarling and ready to claw its way out of her and leap on the people she loved best.
Going away had been the best thing she could have done for herself and, she was sure, for those closest to her. The restlessness was still there, would always stir a bit inside her. But that pacing and snarling had stopped.
The fact was, she was glad to be home, and looking forward to seeing her family, her friends, and all that was dear. And she looked forward to telling them all she’d seen and done during that glorious seven days to herself.
But now she’d best get up and put things back in order. She’d gotten in too late the night before to do more than throw open her bags and admire her new things. She needed to put them away proper, and stack up the gifts she’d bought, for she was a woman who couldn’t abide untidiness for long.
She’d missed her family. Even through the giddy rush of seeing, doing, just being in Paris, she’d missed having them around. She wondered if it was shameful of her not to have expected to.
She couldn’t say she missed the work, the hefting of trays and serving yet another pint. It had been glorious to be served for a change. But she was eager to go down and see how the pub had fared without her. Even if it did mean spending the rest of the day on her feet.
She stretched, lifting her arms high, letting her head roll back, focusing on the pleasure the movement gave her body. She was a woman who didn’t believe in wasting her senses any more than she would waste her pounds.
It wasn’t until she’d climbed out of bed that she realized the constant rumble outside wasn’t thunder.
The construction, she remembered. Now wasn’t it going to be lovely hearing that din every blessed morning? Gathering up a robe, she walked to the window to see what progress had been made in her absence.
She didn’t know anything about the business of building, but what she saw out her window looked to be a terrible mess created by a team of half-wit pranksters. Piles of rubble, scars in the soil, a large concrete floor bottoming out a hole in the ground. Squat towers of cinder block were being erected at the corners with spears of metal poking out of the tops, and a great ugly truck was grinding away with an awful noise.
Most of the workmen, in their rough clothes and filthy boots, were going about the business of making a bigger mess altogether.
She spotted Brenna, her cap perched on her head, her boots mucked nearly to the knee. Seeing her, this forever friend who was now her sister, brought Darcy a warm flood of pure pleasure.
It had shamed her, and did still, to know that part of the reason she’d been wild to get away had been Brenna and Shawn’s wedding, as well as her older brother Aidan and his wife Jude’s happy planning for the baby they’d have by end of summer. Oh, she was thrilled for them all, couldn’t be more delighted with what they’d found together. But the more content and settled they were, the more discontent and unsettled she found herself.
She’d wanted to ball her fists, shake them in the air, and demand, Where’s mine? When will I have mine?
It was selfish, she thought, and it was sinful, but she couldn’t help it.
Well, now she was back and, she hoped, better.
Darcy watched her friend stride around and give one of the laborers a hand with the blocks. She’s in her element here, Darcy mused. Pleased as a puppy with a teat all to herself. She considered opening the window, leaning out to call a hello, and further considered just what having a woman leaning out a window in her robe would do to the rhythm of the work crew.
Because the thought of causing a stir amused her, Darcy reached down. She had the window open the first inch when she spotted the man watching her watching.
He was a tall one, she noted. She’d always had a particular fondness for tall men. He was hatless, and his burnt-honey hair was tousled by the breeze. He wore the rough clothes of a laborer and in her opinion wore them better than most. The long, lanky build had something to do with that, but she thought it was also a matter of confidence. Or arrogance, she mused as he coolly kept his eyes on her face.
She didn’t have a problem with arrogance, as she had plenty of her own.
Well, now, you might be an interesting diversion, she thought. A handsome face, a bold eye. If you can string words into a decent conversation, you might be worth a bit of my time. Providing you’re not married, of course.
Married or not, she decided, there was no harm in a bit of a flirt, since she intended to have no more than that with a man who likely lived from one payday to the next.
So she smiled at him. Slowly, warmly, deliberately. Then, touching a finger to her lips, she blew him a saucy kiss. She watched his teeth flash in appreciation, then eased out of sight.
It was always best, in Darcy’s opinion, to leave a man not only wanting more, but wondering.
She was a stunner, all right, and he was going to appreciate a closer look. What she’d left him with now was the impression of sleepy beauty, of dark and tumbled hair, white skin, and delicate features. No false modesty there, he decided. She’d met his open stare equally, had taken his measure even as he took hers. The carelessly blown kiss had definitely scored a point.
He thought Darcy Gallagher would be a very interesting pastime while he was in Ardmore.
Casually he hefted some blocks, transferring them to Brenna’s work area. “The mix suit you?” he asked, nodding toward the trough that held fresh mortar.
“It does, yes. Good consistency. We’re going through it fairly quickly, but I think we’ve enough to do us.”
“If you see us running low, order what you think we need. I think your friend’s back from her vacation.”
“Hmm.” Distracted, she knocked loose mortar from her trowel, glanced up. “Darcy?” Pleased, Brenna looked toward the window.
“Lots of black hair, wicked smile. Gorgeous.”
“That would be Darcy.”
“I . . . caught a glimpse of her in the window there. If you want to go in and see her, you can take a break.”
“Well, I would.” But she scooped up more mortar. “Except that she’d take one look at me as I am at the moment and bolt the door. Darcy’s very particular about her living quarters. She wouldn’t appreciate me trailing in dirt. I’ll see her midday.”
Brenna spread her mortar with the quick efficiency of the experienced and hauled up the next block. “I can tell you this, Trevor, your men are about to have their hearts broken. It’s a rare one who brushes up near our Darcy and walks away unaffected.”
“As long as we stay on schedule, the crew’s hearts are their own concern.”
“Oh, I’ll keep them on schedule for you, and Darcy will give them happy, if impossible, dreams. Speaking of schedules, I’m thinking we could have the plumbing roughed in on this section by end of week. The pipe didn’t arrive this morning as expected. Do you want me or Dad to check on it when we’re done here?”
“No, I’ll deal with it now.”
“Then I hope you give them a good boot in the ass. You can use the phone in the pub’s kitchen. I unlocked the back when I got here this morning. I’ve the number in my book.”
“No, I have it. You’ll have the pipe today.”
“I’ve no doubt of that,” Brenna murmured as he strode toward the kitchen door.
The kitchen was spotless. It was one of the things Trevor noticed, and demanded, when it came to any business he had a part in. He imagined the Gallaghers wouldn’t think of him as having a part in their pub, but from his viewpoint their business was now very much his concern.
He dug his book out of his pocket. In New York his assistant would have located the number, made the call. She would have worked her way through the various steps until she’d reached the person in charge. Only then, if it was necessary, would the matter have passed into Trevor’s hands.
He had to admit, though that saved time and frustration, he rather enjoyed wading in at the bottom and administering that good boot in the ass.
In the five minutes it took him to reach the top level, he spied the biscuit tin. In the few days he’d been in and around Gallagher’s he’d come to know that when there were cookies, they were homemade. And they were spectacular.
He helped himself to a honey and oatmeal cookie as big as his fist as he annihilated the supply supervisor without ever raising his voice. He jotted down the name, in case retribution should become necessary, and was given a personal guarantee that the pipe in question would be delivered to the site by noon.
Satisfied with that, he broke the connection and was considering a second cookie when he heard the footsteps on the stairs. Selecting peanut butter this time, Trevor leaned back against the counter and prepared for his first real eyeful of Darcy Gallagher.
Like Shawn’s cookies, she was spectacular.
She stopped at the base of the stairs, lifted one slim eyebrow. Her eyes were blue, like her brothers’, a brilliant color against flawlessly white skin. She left her hair loose so that it waved beguilingly over her shoulders.
She was dressed with a tailored smartness that seemed more suited to Madison Avenue than Ardmore.
“Good morning to you. Having a tea break?”
“Phone call.” He took a bite of the cookie as he watched her. The voice, Irish and smoky as a turf fire, was as straight-out sexy as the rest of her.
“Well I’m making some tea here, as I’ve run out upstairs and don’t like to start my day without. Makes me cross.” She skimmed her gaze over him as she moved to the stove. “Will you have a cup to wash down the biscuit? Or must you go straight back to work?”
“I can take a minute.”
“You’re fortunate your employer’s not so strict. I’ve heard that Magee runs a very tight ship.”
“So he does.”
While the kettle heated, Darcy dealt with the pot. The man was better up close. She liked the sharp angles of his face, the little scar on his chin. It gave him a dangerous look, and she was so bloody weary of safe men. No wedding ring, she noted, though that didn’t always tell the tale.
“You’ve come all the way from America,” she continued, “to work on his theater?”
“A long way from home. I hope you were able to bring your family with you.”
“If you mean wife, I’m not married.” He broke the cookie in half, offered her a share.
Amused, she took it. “That leaves you free to travel for your work, doesn’t it? And what is it you do?”
Oh, yes, she thought and nibbled on the cookie. Just dangerous enough. “I’d say that makes you a handy man to have around and about.”
“I’m going to be around and about here for some time yet.” He waited while she lifted the sputtering kettle, poured the boiling water into the pot. “Would you like to have dinner?”
She sent him a long sidelong glance, added a hint of a smile. “Sure I like a good meal now and then, and interesting company with it. But I’m just back from my holiday and won’t have time off for a bit. My brother Aidan’s a hard man with a schedule.”
“How about breakfast?”
She set the kettle down. “I might enjoy that. Perhaps you’ll ask me again in a day or two, once I’ve settled back in.”
“Perhaps I will.”
She was vaguely surprised, and a little disappointed that he hadn’t pursued the invitation then and there. She was used to men pleading a bit. But she turned, took out a thick mug for his tea. “What part of America are you from, then?”
“New York City?” Her eyes sparkled as she turned back. “Oh, is it wonderful?”
“A lot of it is.”
“It has to be the most exciting city in the world.” She cupped the mug in both hands as she imagined it, as she’d imagined it countless times before. “Maybe not the most beautiful. I thought Paris so beautiful—female and sly and sexual. I think of New York as a man— demanding and reckless and so full of energy you have to run to keep up.”
Amused at herself, she set down his mug. “It probably doesn’t strike you that way since you’re used to being there your whole life.”
“I doubt you think of Ardmore, or this area, as magic.” He saw her eyebrow arch up again at his words. “As a small and nearly perfect corner of the world where you can reach back or forward in time as suits you. And while there’s energy here, it comes with patience so you don’t have to run to keep up.”
Excerpted from "Heart of the Sea"
Copyright © 2014 Nora Roberts.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Heart of the Sea (last book in the series) was defiantly a Nora Roberts book. Roberts' uses a fairy and a ghost from 300 years ago and ties them into the future of 3 different couples that live in today's world. I love to read fiction books, but not where the main characters might be super-human. Instead this series is most defiantly a romance novel with the main characters being regular men and women and contains a little bit of fantasy in terms of the characters and the plot. Words that I would describe this book as: Romance, Love, Fantasy, Light Humor
Thoroughly enjoyed the trilogy. It had me laughing out loud and shedding tears as I read them. Storytelling is magical. Weaving a story with details that made you feel like you were there.
I thought that Darcy's story was excellent. I wanted it for her from the start. She overcame so much and found the love that she needed to sustain her. A must read. I couldn't put it down.
Have read multiple times and this series never disappoints
This trilogy is the best. It makes me want to live in Ardmore.
It was a great way to end this Irish trilogy!
Love the series.
Love the people and place! I visited the enchanted place as I was reading all three books.
Interesting characters. Lovely faeries! Having to work in reverse to overcome obstinacy.
Great story again
I have not laughed so much at Tears of the Moon.
The jewels trilogy is sweet and sexy, and makes you believe in Magik always and forever
I never tire of the books Nora Roberts writes. This trilogy was fantastic! Heart Of The Sea really hits the mark. Ireland, magic and love. There is nothing better!
Once I started reading these I couldn't put it down, I felt like I was a part of the book. Truly Magical. Great reading.
I already know I'll be reading this trilogy again and again. Thank you Nora Roberts for another great story and fabulous characters.
I enjoyed the first 2 books in this trilogy but this story was too repetitive and the main character was not likeable.
Loved the book but wanted another book to tell what happened next with the 3 married couples.