Kimberly Cates' enchanting love stories are wonderful journeys of the heart, colored with the vivid emotions of her unforgettable heroes and adventurous heroines. In this breathtaking new novel, a daring Irish lass meets a magnificent warrior she believes has come to the Emerald Isle from far beyond and long ago.
It may be just a fairy tale, but Mary Fallon Delaney cherishes the fable of Ciaran of the Mist, the legendary guardian said to keep watch over Ireland. And Fallon's homeland could use his otherworldly help: English troops, searching for an escaped criminal, are terrorizing the countryside. Feeling a bit foolish, Fallon makes her way to a ruined castle on mystical Beltaine Eve to summon Ciaran with a glittering brooch said to possess magical powers. She never expected a towering, naked stranger -- surely the most handsome man she's ever seen -- to appear out of the fog... or imagined he would be so furiously angry!
A gash on his head proves he's no apparition, but has left his identity a mystery. For Fallon, this dark-haired wonder could be her dream hero in the flesh -- bound to return to his faraway world. But before she can know who he is or where he came from, the two are swept up in a furious clash with the hated English. Only an exquisite love, stronger than betrayal or even time itself, can join them together forever, if it is touched by magic....
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Kimberly Cates called "a truly gifted storyteller" by Kathe Robin of Romantic Times and "one of the brightest stars of the romance genre" by author Iris Johansen, is the beloved author of Crown of Mist, Restless Is the Wind, To Catch a Flame, Only Forever, Crown of Dreams, The Raider's Bride, The Raider's Daughter, Stealing Heaven, Gather the Stars, Angel's Fall, and Morning Song. A native of Illinois, Kimberly taught elementary school for three years and married her high school sweetheart.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It was time.
Once every year, Fallon drew the mystic golden circle from its hiding place within the stone walls and cradled it in her hands while the spring winds of Beltane sang to her alone. But never once did she dare the magic of the ancient brooch.
Sixteen full moons had sailed on sixteen more Beltanes, each spinning its own special magic. But this time...this night was different. Fallon felt it, sensed it.
Druid-trees breathed warning, standing stones reached out in long fingers, awakening unquiet spirits that clung to every shadow, every hollow, every glen. Billows of shimmering mist swirled up past Fallon's knees, and branches caught at her skirts as she made her way up the path that ran perilously close to the cliffs.
Closer...She could hear the ghosts of drowned sailors calling from the Soul Cages beneath the crashing sea, luring her nearer the crumbling ledge that plunged to the jagged rocks below. Just one misstep and you will be ours...
But she only clutched the folds of her blue velvet cloak more tightly about her, retracing steps she'd taken a thousand times in the years since her mother had died -- the twisted, dangerous path that led to her castle in the sky.
How many times as a lonely child had she tried to outrun the sting of her grief, bathe it in an elixir of magic and legends and possibilities. She'd fought so very hard to believe the tales she had hoarded in her imagination, the myths devoured in countless books. Even when the march of time and her own reason waged war against it. Even when she'd begun to doubt just a little.
It was well past time she leave off childish dreaming, her brother Hugh would say. She was in danger from other hazards on the road to the castle -- thieves, wanderers, once farmers, thrown off their lands by landlords attempting to squeeze the last drop of wealth from their holdings. English patrols, meant to drive the centuries-old talk of Irish rebellion into the shadows.
Or, failing that, Hugh would predict, she'd face the pain of her own disillusionment.
No, Hugh would never understand why she had come.
Her eyes turned to where the ghostly battlements of the castle pierced through the unearthly haze, straining toward the full moon that sailed forever beyond its grasp.
At Caislean ag Dahmsa Ceo she'd never felt alone.
The earth trembled with the pagan rhythm of Beltane, the veil between the other world and the world of mortals thinning for this night of Bright Fire. She could almost see the shadowy apparitions of unquiet spirits, almost understand the language whispered between the druid-trees. And she was certain that if her mother's ghost was wandering anywhere on earth, it would be here, among the battered stone walls of the Castle of the Dancing Mist.
Fallon swallowed hard. The outermost wall of the abandoned castle rose up in front of her. Every year, she'd made this pilgrimage, every year she'd listened, waited, tried to hold the wispy edges of ages-old enchantment. But tonight was different somehow; the air too thick for her lungs, the floor unstable beneath her feet.
She couldn't rid herself of the feeling that she was being watched. By whom? The ancient spirits? The stones themselves? Was the castle waiting for her? Waiting for the summons that had been passed from generation to generation? Were the window spaces' all-knowing, all-seeing eyes fixed upon her? Or was there something else? Something far more sinister that had dared come out into the night?
No. She was being absurd. She shook away the odd sensations. She'd come here every Beltane, hadn't she? She'd taken out the magic brooch and sat on the flat stone at the edge of the cliff until dawn streaked the sky.
Every girl in Glenceo came to that stone at some time in her life, anticipation singing in her veins as she waited for the stone to conjure up dreams of the man who would be her true love.
The Lady Stone...one more piece of Ciaran's enchantment. A place to stir up dreams of love, and hope, bright ribbons leading to a man's embrace.
Not that Fallon had ever hoped for such a future, such a dream. She was wed to her legends, her stories. Every dream she'd ever had while seated on that enchanted stone was of Ciaran, walking out of the mist.
She stretched out her hand and pressed her palm against the rough surface of the wall, making her way by touch until she reached the hiding place she'd found so many years ago. With the tips of her fingers, she loosened the stone and drew it out. Heart hammering, she eased her fingers into the dark space revealed.
Her fingers collided with something hard, and she gathered the handkerchief-wrapped bundle into her palm.
She froze at a sound out of synch with the night, the crunch of a boot sole nearby. Did the sidhe make such solid sounds when they moved? Her fingers clenched over the pin, and she turned, scarcely able to breathe. She wouldn't have been surprised to see the pagan son of the sun, Lugh himself, or Mannan Mac Lir, god of the sea, rising up from the waves. But nothing, no one could have chilled her more certainly than the figure silhouetted against the stone.
Light from the full moon struck him like the shaft of an arrow, eerily illuminating the blood-red of his regimentals, shadow accenting the sharp planes of his face. And his eyes -- even despite the mist and the darkness, they glowed as if they held some dark sorcery of their own.
She'd seen the man for barely a heartbeat when he'd come around to introduce himself to the neighboring gentry. But she'd never forget how terrifyingly civil the captain had been as he left no doubt what would happen to any of the landlords weak-hearted enough to give aid to those he'd come to destroy.
It was rumored Lionel Redmayne could peel the skin from his enemies' faces, pry out their darkest secrets with no torture-weapon but his eyes. Eyes that seemed to draw in every flaw, every sin, every weakness in the human soul, and take a jaded pleasure in them.
What in God's name was the man doing here? Now?
Was it possible he'd known she was coming here tonight? Was it possible he knew why and planned to...to what? Arrest her? Fallon yanked herself back from the edge of panic. Calling centuries-old heroes back from the land of the fairies wasn't a hanging offense in Ireland. At least not yet.
"What have we here?" he asked in a voice so low Fallon had to strain to hear it.
Fallon groped desperately for that elusive, invisible mask other people donned so easily to hide their emotions.
Those inscrutable eyes raked Fallon slowly from the top of her head to the mud-spattered hem of her cloak. "Miss Delaney of Misthaven. So we meet again."
Ruthlessness rippled from him in thick waves, an odd sort of omniscience all the more terrifying because of the icy, emotionless calm draped about Redmayne like some dark mantle. He was Satan surveying bumbling mortals with diabolical patience, certain they would sin.
Was it possible he had come searching for her? The possibility was too terrifying to even consider. Fallon gripped the pin so hard it pierced her skin, but she didn't feel the pain, didn't feel anything except the primal need to escape that probing gaze. She couldn't let him know how afraid she was, and yet, she longed to slice into that insufferable arrogance. What better way than to pretend she didn't remember him.
"Do I know you, sir?" she asked in her loftiest tone.
A chuckle of disbelief rose from his chest, a kind of admiration curling his smile. "We met at your brother's house a week ago. Captain Lionel Redmayne, your obedient servant." He sketched her a bow that reminded her of sleek panthers lunging ever so gracefully to tear out a victim's throat.
"I'm surprised your brother has allowed you such freedom in a time of unrest. Hasn't he warned you that the night is full of dangers?"
"I'm not afraid."
Fearsomely sensual lips widened in a smile that thrust slivers of ice beneath Fallon's skin. She could hardly breathe.
"Would you be afraid if I told you I was searching for a band of smugglers? Desperate men who might enjoy having the sister of one of the landowners in their power?"
Was that what Redmayne was doing here at the castle? Had the captain traced the smugglers so close to their secret lair?
It took all her strength of will not to glance in the direction of the secret entrance to the tunnels that wound beneath the castle.
For generations, the labyrinth had given shelter to those in need. Priests had sought shelter there when they were hunted down like rabid dogs, and scholars had struggled down beneath the castle, reading forbidden books in the time when English law forbade any Catholic to learn to read.
It was a haven for rebellion, where time after time men had sharpened rusty swords and horded questionable ammunition, readying themselves to throw off the yoke of English rule. It was there the tattered remnants of defeated rebel armies had staggered, to tend their wounds before fleeing to France. And there, in the dark tunnels beneath Caislean ag Dahmsa Ceo, that their sons and their sons' sons had drawn out the battered weapons, brushed off the dust and taken up the battle again.
Five years had passed since the last rising, and the scars were still visible in the land -- the hollow-eyed grief of mothers who had watered Irish soil with the blood of their children, the whipping trees where the lash had fallen again and again, on innocent and guilty alike, and always the crushing poverty, the stranglehold on any trade that might leave Irish shores.
Was it possible that anyone might be in the souterrains tonight? Fallon wondered, dread tightening her throat. No. It was Beltane tonight. Most likely everyone was at the celebrations, the tunnels empty.
But would anyone be truly safe in these glens until Lionel Redmayne was far away?
"If you'll excuse me, I'll be on my way." She started to stride past but, with a deceptively negligent shift of booted legs, Redmayne blocked her way.
"I must repeat my warning. Even now I am searching for a most elusive fellow -- not some bumbling crofter thrashing about with his grandfather's rusted musket, but an adversary far more subtle. He is as insubstantial as your precious Irish mist. No one sees his face, and yet he leaves his mark everywhere. Known rebels about to be taken up by the soldiers disappear, never to be seen again. Families whose men have died on the gallows, or who have fled like the base cowards they are, suddenly produce their rent money just before the landlord is about to evict them. From Dingle to Galway, people whisper of him, but no one, not even under the most persuasive torture, has ever given him a name except Silver Hand -- a ridiculous sobriquet."
Fallon had heard of the mysterious force that had done so much good the past five years. But the people of Glenceo were as ignorant of his identity as the English. She'd tried, herself, to discover who he was and had failed, just as everyone else had. The only ones to see Silver Hand had been his own men, and they were as elusive as their master.
"I understand this person has kept the garrison chasing its tail for an embarrassing length of time."
"Indeed. I intend to change that. You see, he has made a fatal mistake. Killed my predecessor, a general's nephew. You, of course, would offer any help you could give? You might have seen something, someone -- "
"You are the only person I've met tonight."
"Little wonder, considering the weather. I'm certain you understand my curiosity, Miss Delaney, finding a lady such as yourself out on such an unpleasant evening. Exactly where are you bound for? Are you an angel of mercy braving the coming storm? Have you succumbed to a pressing need to deliver calf's foot jelly at this late hour?"
Even through the haze of darkness she could feel the probing of those unnerving eyes.
"No, you couldn't be on a mission of mercy," Redmayne answered his own question. "You're carrying no basket. Besides, who would live here on the cliffs except, of course, spirits of the dead, and legends that should have faded away generations ago?"
She feared he'd see the pounding of her heart beneath the bluebell muslin of her walking dress. "I often walk at night," Fallon said. "And the castle is beautiful in the mist. It's quiet here. A place where one can be alone, think. Or is thinking against the law now, Captain?"
"That depends." His voice felt like fingers trying to pry into her mind. "During my visits with your neighbors, they've mentioned that you have some rather unsavory acquaintances among the peasantry. A folly that can be very dangerous, Miss Delaney."
Fallon swallowed hard, images flashing behind her eyes. Uilleann pipes filling the night air with haunting refrains, sweet Irish tenors blending, weaving ballad after ballad filled with heartache and hope that never died. Hushed whispers that were already rising among the young men like the wind, fight again...die again...this time, perhaps, the sacrifice will be enough. Freedom.
Dangerous? Perhaps. But only with these simple crofters did she feel truly alive.
It was obvious the man wasn't going to let her leave until she gave him some reason for her outing tonight. Best to stick as close to the truth as possible to keep from stumbling. "I happen to love storms. The power of them, the wildness. I often go to the cliffs to watch them."
"And your brother allows it? A guardian should take better care of his ward."
"My brother has more pressing concerns."
"A pity. A young woman of your kind has need of guidance. Women are so easily moved by romantic tales and such nonsense, they can easily be led astray."
He shoved himself away from the wall, pacing the stone floors, running his fingertips over the walls as if searching for some weakness in the structure -- or for the loosened brick that had hidden Fallon's treasure.
"I was told that torchlight often flickers here, late at night, have you ever seen that?"
Fallon shook her head.
His teeth flashed, white, in a feral smile. "I fear I'm never able to resist solving a puzzle, Miss Delaney. And this place puzzles me exceedingly."
"It's a castle ruin, just like so many others."
"This is no ordinary castle, or so the simple folk say. It's supposed to be the lair some sort of ghost, spirit -- a hero who is doomed to return generation after generation to perform epic feats. Abominable waste of energy, in my opinion. If he fixed things right the first time, he wouldn't have to keep returning to do the job again. But then, you know all about this Ciaran of the Mist person, don't you, Miss Delaney, despite the ignorance you feign? The legend is linked somehow with your family."
He was watching carefully for the slightest shift in her features. Fallon swallowed hard. "You don't strike me as the type of man who believes in fairy tales, Captain Redmayne."
She surprised a laug...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Pocket, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0671014943
Book Description Pocket, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0671014943
Book Description Pocket, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110671014943
Book Description Pocket. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0671014943 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1975221