Riding hard against a Kansas prairie storm, rancher Glynis Muldoon makes a sudden leap—and lands in the year 1832 in the forest hideaway of a rogue Irishman with a bounty on his head. Stranded in time, Glynis wages her own battle against a hunger she cannot deny for a man she cannot afford to love, a man whose destiny was decided long before. Carrick des Marceaux, "the Dragon," is an outlaw indifferent to death—for, in the ruby of the Dragon's Heart, he has foreseen his own. Now, in the shadow of the hangman's noose, Carrick lives only for his cause. And Glynis must gamble with fate and death itself—to win a once-in-a-lifetime love.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)|
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County Kerry, Ireland
Carrick des Marceaux shielded the candle flame with his hand and glanced down the hall at his cousin. "Is anyone coming?" he whispered.
"No," Robert answered, moving away from the top of the stairs. "They're all still at the table. Except for your mother. She just went into the kitchen."
Carrick nodded and motioned toward his parents' bedchamber. "Then come on. We don't have much time."
"You know we're going to get in trouble if we get caught, don't you?" Robert whispered, reaching for the latch.
"If, Robert," Carrick countered. "If. But even if we do, it won't be nearly as bad as our punishment after the egg fight we had last week." He waited until the door closed behind them before he dropped his hand and allowed the flame to fully cast its light. "You look under the bed," he instructed, crossing the room to set the candleholder down on the bedside table. "I'll go through the chest by the window."
"Christmas is only two days away, Carrick. We could wait."
"As though you have any more patience than I do," Carrick retorted, hunkering down beside the oak trunk in which his mother stored the more personal of her belongings. "Having a mother from the twentieth century has its advantages, Rob. And to my way of thinking her Christmas customs are some of the better ones. I can't stand not knowing. So, if I were going to hide Christmas presents . . ."
He raised the lid of the trunk and peered inside. Carefully lifting the edge of a blue wool cloak, he peeked beneath it and saw nothing that interested him. Perhaps his Christmas present had been hidden under thenext layer.
"We're supposed to get our horses back tomorrow," Robert reminded him. "We'll lose them for another week if we get caught."
Carrick looked over his shoulder at his cousin. "So? "
"You can sneak out at night to ride all you like. My father would flail me alive if he found me slipping out. Your father always lets you off easy."
There would be no point in denying the truth of Robert's claim. No point in discussing it, either. "Are you just going to stand there or are you going to look under the bed?"
"You search. I'll stand by the door and listen for someone coming."
Leave it to Robert to be the careful one, the one prepared for the worst. He always was. "Well, listen sharp, then," Carrick said, going back to searching his mother's oak trunk. "And give me enough warning so that we can get out of here in time, all right? "
"Don't forget to look in your father's sea chest. That's where mine keeps his special things."
"Good idea. And I'll look under the bed."
"The Land of the Dust Bunnies." Robert grinned.
Carrick smiled back and shoved his hand into the darkened back corner of the chest, then ran his fingers along the wooden seams. They brushed something cold and hard. Hoping that it might be a fitting for the pistol he so desperately wanted, he quickly brought the object out into the meager candlelight.
The object, softly glinting silver and red, practically filled the palm of Carrick's hand. Not pistol fittings, but certainly something fascinating, something that made his heart race. "Look, Rob!" he called, turning and rising to his feet. He held out his hand so his cousin could see. "I'll wager you a new saddle that this is the Dragon's Heart."
"Really?" Robert came away from the door with a bound, his eyes wide. "The magic Dragon's Heart? You think so?" He stopped a good two paces away from Carrick and stared at the ancient pin. "Can you see anything in it?"
Carrick turned it around in his hand. "It just looks like a plain ol' ruby to me. Maybe you have to hold it a certain way." He lifted it toward the candle and positioned it so that the light danced through the stone. Still, he saw nothing in it. No people. No places. He scowled. All the whispered stories about the magical Dragon's Heart had been simply that: stories. And he had actually believed them. It wasn't magic at all. It couldn't really show you the future.
"Why do you suppose Aunt Alanna put it away?" Robert asked, edging closer.
"Mother's a girl," Carrick answered. "She doesn't like scary things."
Robert snickered. "It's just a dumb ol' broach. It doesn't look so scary to me."
"Me either." But even as he agreed, a milky cloud rose from deep within the ruby. Through the eddying, swirling mist he could see the vague outlines of various and odd shapes. He bent closer and tried to make sense of what he was seeing.
"What is it, Carrick? Do you see something?"
Carrick heard his cousin's question, vaguely felt his shoulder pressed against him, but answering was beyond him. He needed to concentrate, to make the mist go away, to make whatever was within the Dragon's Heart come into focus.
The picture came slowly, a bit at a time. First a dirty cobbled street and a scaffold made of new lumber. An executioner's scaffold. Then the milling crowd. As the vision took shape, he saw a slab of stone lying against a wagon wheel, the dates 1807 and 1832 carved in an arc across the top.
And then the white mist rolled away to reveal, beneath the dates, the name of the man for whom the scaffold had been built and whose death the people had come to see. Carrick blinked, certain he had seen it improperly. But when he looked again the name remained the same: Carrick des Marceaux.
Then the image in the Dragon's Heart changed. Carrick held his breath and watched as British soldiers escorted a younger version of his father, hands bound, up the steps of the scaffold. A younger version of his father or an older version of himself. Carrick stared into the Dragon's Heart, paralyzed by the images. The tall wooden gallows, the hangman and his noose, the sight of himself standing stoically as the hemp circle was tightened about his neck....
He forced back his horror and closed his eyes, clenching the broach tightly in his hand. But his mind refused to let go of the image, keeping it before him, branding him with the certainty that he'd seen his own death.
Robert threw open the door and ran down the hallway. But Carrick didn't move. He couldn't do anything but stand where he was, clutching the Dragon's Heart.
The Dragon's Heart wasn't real. And even if it really could show the future, that didn't mean this particular future was unavoidable. His mother was a Seer of the Ancient Find. She had magical powers and she would make things right. And if she couldn't, then his father would. His father was the O'Connell, the head of the clan. No one would dare hang his son.
The sound of his mother's voice filtered through his panicked thoughts. She stood just inside the room, her skirts still swirling about her ankles, her long blond braid lying over her shoulder, her chest rising and falling as she tried to catch her breath. For an instant she met his eyes and then her own dropped to his hand. She paled and seemed to falter before she looked back up at him.
"Oh, dear God. What have you seen, Carrick? "
The words came wrapped in tears. "Am I going to be hanged, Mother?"
She took a deep breath before she spoke over her shoulder. "Robert. Go down and tell your Uncle Kiervan that I need him up here. Right now."
"Yes, ma'am," his cousin answered. Robert's footsteps echoed down the stone corridor.
"Mother?" Carrick pressed, trying to take a deep breath. She looked so sad. "You can make it different, can't you?"
She came to him and gathered him in her arms. Rocking him gently back and forth, she hugged him as though she would never let him go. But she said nothing.
Carrick felt the Dragon's Heart slip from his fingers, heard it hit the carpet at their feet with a soft thud. The sound struck the center of his soul. And in that instant he knew that no one could save him.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Glynis Muldoon, a Kansas rancher riding out a storm is suddenly whirled through time to 19th century Ireland. Running from those damned redcoates she rides injured into the camp of a group of men lead by Carrick des Marceaux, the infamous dragon, who are rebelling against the unjust tithe laws. However, Glynis' arrival sets in motion a series of events that will ultimately lead to Carrick's death, which has been forseen in the dragon's heart, a ruby brooch which shows visions of the future. Despite their differences, together they find a simmering passion that becomes a once in a lifetime love. But will Glynis' love be strong enough to fight fate and save Carrick, despite his scepticism? Will he return her love? Or will he die as has been forseen in the swirling depths of the dragon's heart?