†Ireland. Home to incredibly green grass, rocky shores and magic. And evil. It was fear of facing that evil that had kept Cassie McGuire away for ten long years.
Away from her father, her aunt, and the man she had left behind. Yet she couldnít deny her ancestry any longer. Or her supernatural powers. Those powers were telling her it was time to deal with her destiny. A destiny that could set her family free or, if she failed, could forever condemn them to The Stanton Curse.
The plane sliced through the blue sky while the passengers readied themselves for the long flight. Some browsed through magazines while others put on headphones to watch the movie on the large screen, and again there were some who began typing furiously on their laptops. Cassie was aware of the activity around her, but she couldnít relax enough to do any of those things. She reached in her purse and pulled out the letter her father had sent her, reading it for the tenth time.
Cassie, my love,
It has been so very long since Iíve seen your face, felt your arms around me. íTis a proud man youíve made me with your fine degree, but perhaps, you could find the time to spend a week or so with your old dad. I miss you, child. So does Sarah. She sends her love.
She stopped reading as the stewardess offered her a drink. She accepted a glass of wine, and sipped it unexpected tears filling her eyes. She should have made this trip long ago, yet every time she had thought about returning to Ireland, Connorís face flashed in front of her, his dark eyes accusing, his expression as harsh as the day she had left. She could still picture him standing in front of her, his words striking her like blows.
"You belong here with your father and Sarah and not off thousands of miles away playing at getting an education you could easily find right here."
"Donít you dare be talking to me that way, Connor Callahan. Youíre just jealous. Would it be that you are wishing you were going yourself?"
"Iím not wishing anything of the sort. Iím happy with my life and my home. Itís a shame the same canít be said for you."
"Go to hell! Iíll show you. Iíll show everyone!"
And she had, she thought. She had finished medical school and graduated with honors. Her father and Sarah had attended, Shamus with a big smile on his handsome face. They had visited a few times a year, usually over the holidays, but she had never returned home and they had never asked her to...until now.
She took in a deep, shuddering breath. She had missed them so very much. When she had allowed herself, she had missed everything Irish; the emerald green grass, the smell of the salt in the air, the warmth of her friends and neighbors.
Yet, underneath, there was the darkness. The evil she knew waited for her. She dreamed of it at night, awakening with her heart pounding. It intruded in the middle of the day when she least expected it. It was the other reason she found herself making excuse after excuse not to go home. She had called herself all sorts of names; coward, weakling. And yet she remained away.
She glanced down at the letter still in her damp palms. Until this letter. And, just like that, it was time; time to face what she had been born to face.
She reached up and rubbed her shoulder--the shoulder that held the mark of the Stanton curse. In that moment, a resolve formed. She would no longer run scared. No longer allow fear to invade her thoughts or influence her future or that of her family. If she was to be the one to end it, then so be it. It was then, still clutching her fatherís letter that her thick lashes fluttered, allowing deep healing sleep to surround her.
Shamus looked up toward the brilliance of the stars in the crisp night sky smiling when Sarah wrapped her arms around him from behind.
"Are ye coming in? Itís getting chilly out here."
"Aye. In a bit."
"Sheíll be coming home soon, my love."
He turned, running a finger across her soft cheek.
"And how would you be knowin that?"
"Because I can feel it." She dimpled. "And you would be knowing better than to question my instincts."
His blue eyes smiled. "That I do, my love. That I do." He took her arm and tucked her small figure next to his muscular chest, breathing in her familiar scent. "And why are you so sure now when you havenít been before?"
"Because the time is right for her to fulfill what she is destined to."
His face darkened. "Then she will turn around and leave if I have anything to do with it."
She reached up and kissed his cheek. "But you donít have anything to do with it, now do you? Come, share a pot of tea and keep me warm. We will deal with what we have to another day."
She could feel him withdraw, sense his anger, and the words she started to say went unsaid. There would be no point. They had been said before. She felt cold when he lifted his arm from around her shoulders.
"Set the pot to boil and Iíll be in shortly."
Sarah nodded, leaving him alone in the soft darkness. His eyes followed her inside. He should be happy he had a woman like Sarah in his life. Yet, he needed his daughter next to him as well. Not in a country thousands of miles away.
Donít be a fool, man. Youíre the one that sent her away. Now youíre wishing she was back. You canít have it both ways.
Yet that was exactly what he wanted. He missed his Cassie desperately. Missed her husky laugh, the sheen of the sun on her dark hair, the way she looked so very much like her mother.
He leaned against the porch rail his memories strong and sweet. She had been such a beautiful little girl; all dark curls and sunshine. Until her thirteenth year--the year when so many things changed, things that had resulted in him pushing the most precious thing in his life away. He closed his eyes and the memories, as sharp and clear as if they were yesterday, came rushing back.