Once in Many Generations Does a Woman of the Fitzgerald Clan Bear the Mark -- and the Gift--of the Rose.
Years before in Ireland, seven-year-old, Deirdre dreamed about a handsome young man with hair as dark as a raven's wing and eyes as blue as the summer sky. Not long after, she discovered a wounded young man hiding in her father’s stables and helped hide him from the English troops. Though her family scoffed at her declaration, Deirdre knew this stranger was destined to be her one true love.
Now Deirdre is a beautiful headstrong young woman who lives in exile in France with her father, Lord Fitzgerald. Men desire her and women envy her, yet Deirdre remains true to her youthful dream of love. She will wait, forever, if need be.
Finally, a fierce Irishman by the name of MacShane rides into her life, bringing danger, thrilling adventure, and the promise of ecstasy. ’Tis a pity he’s scarred and hunted and despised. She cannot have him…so they say.
However, Deirdre is touched by fairy luck…the mark of the rose on her shoulder. When Destiny sends them back to Ireland, she will fight for her man, in pursuit of a glorious love the world would deny.
Deirdre had paused at the top of the stairway after sending the maids below, her heart beating so rapidly that she knew the agitation showed in her face and gave away her feelings. She was elated, exhilarated, triumphant: all because of the flash of interest she had spied in MacShane’s blue eyes. It had not been flattering or particularly admiring…but it had been passionate.
That look had caught her utterly by surprise. Yet, why should it have? She had been raised in France in a season when all women could expect to be admired, flattered, and constantly pursued. She knew that ardor was but a polite mask for lust. If MacShane had no better manners than to reveal his baser instincts to her, it did not follow that men like Cousin Claude did not have those instincts. She had lived in a household dominated by men too long not to know better.
That was what excited her—that, and something more. He was a stranger, yet those hot blue eyes were hauntingly familiar, as something remembered from long ago. If he had smiled again she would have remembered, she was certain of it.
A tiny pinprick of pain began between her brows, the same annoying pain that had awakened her during the night. She put a hand to the point between her brows and massaged the spot. Why should thoughts of MacShane always make her head ache?
When a door in the hall behind her opened, she swung about, embarrassed to have been caught daydreaming.
MacShane strode toward her, head bent in thought. When he realized who stood in his path, he checked his pace as if annoyed.
Deirdre waited patiently for him to speak. After all, he had ignored her moments before. He ran both hands through his long, uncombed hair but it was in lamentable disarray. His shirt was spotted where water had dripped from his face, and he had not yet taken a razor to his beard. Black stubble contoured his hard jaw and set off the lines of his wide firm mouth. All in all, he looked the part of the remote, ill-tempered Irish soldier whom her brothers had warned her of, but she could not forget the sound of his laughter. It had echoed through the kitchen and startled her with the unexpectedness of its warmth. He was unlike any man she had ever known before, and that in itself was intriguing.
“Is your father awake?” he asked without preamble. “I must see him.”
“Good morning to you, too, MacShane,” she answered with a polite nod. So much for flattering looks!
The frown puckering his brow faded but his expression remained austere. “Aye, my manners are wanting. Good day to you, Lady Deirdre.”
Deirdre smiled until her dimple was on full display. His gaze was on her once more, hard and unwavering. This time there was no passion in the blue eyes, only the curious, steady gaze of a man sizing up a problem. “Da will not be about for hours yet, sir. ’Tis scarcely dawn. We may be country mice but we keep city hours. Perhaps I can help you.”
Killian glanced back down the hall. “’Tis a terrible vice of mine, imagining that I can cure the world’s ills when there’s drink warming me veins,” he muttered.
Deirdre followed his gaze. “Does your problem concern the child? I am quite good with children.”
Her coolness annoyed Killian. What had happened to the wild-haired lass with dirty bare feet who had ridden light-as-the-wind on the back of a seasoned campaign horse? Where was the wildcat in night clothes who had drawn a bread knife on him to protect a street urchin whose crimes included murdering his employer? The poised, serene creature before him was not the sort a man would confide in, nor was she the stuff of a man’s dreams from which he awoke aroused. She was a lady fit only for gentlemen who visited gilded salons and scented gardens. Well, he was no gentleman, and she might as well learn it.
“’Tis no matter for a lass,” he said curtly.
Deirdre’s pleasant feelings evaporated. She had been dismissed. “Then do not allow me to detain you.” She turned and started away before she remembered her own manners. “When your temper has improved, you may find my father in the stables. ’Tis his custom to ride at midmorning. Bring the lad with you. I’m certain Da would like to meet him.”
“The lad’s a she.”
Deirdre turned about and said, her voice cool, “Do not mistake me for a fool, sir. I have seen the child.”
Killian regarded her steadily, his eyes narrowed. “Aye, and what you saw was a lass.”
“How can you expect me to believe you when—” Deirdre’s voice faltered as the sound of splashing water was heard from the end of the hallway.
Killian regarded her now with a stare of undisguised amusement. “I may be rude and ill mannered, but I know when I’m looking at a lass’s quim.”
Blood stung Deirdre’s cheeks. Even Conall and Darragh would not have used such language in her presence. “You’ve nae manners, MacShane!”
The grin that had teased Killian’s mouth disappeared. “’Tis why I’d prefer to deal with your da. ’Tis your own meddling that brings you into my affairs.
“I’m a soldier, nae a courtier,” he added as he approached her.
When he was only a foot from her he placed his hands on her shoulders, and the pressure of his touch betrayed the latent strength he possessed. He stood so close that she discerned for the first time several tiny white scars crisscrossing his brow and the regular pulse beat at the base of his throat. He leaned toward her, and for one wild moment she thought that he would kiss her.