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ISBN-10: 1-55404-502-9
Genre: Romance/Supernatural/Horror
eBook Length: 157 Pages
Published: October 2007

From inside the flap

All ballerina Tammy Wilde wants to do is escape her memories: of the automobile accident that caused the death of her dancing partner, the divorce from her celebrity-seeking husband, and the haunting dreams of star-crossed lovers from another Time. Traveling to Ireland, she meets and falls in love with Padraic Shea, who introduces her to the beauty and mystery of the Irish countryside while his gentleness and understanding help her forget her pain. When he tells her the tale of the Irish Lady’s Spanish Lover, the ghost which haunts his family, Tammy realizes the legend and the story in her dreams are the same. Soon, she and Padraic will be threatened by a force that has survived the centuries, as her presence awakens the spectre who rises to claim the woman he loves, and kill the last living relative of the man who cursed him.


Chapter One


The plane landed at 2:45 that afternoon.

Eamonn O’Reilly was making a tidy profit, Ballywalegh being 30 miles from Shannon Airport, but if the young lady wanted him to take her that far, sure now and he was only too glad to do so. Besides, ’twas a pleasant drive, and a decided change from his usual fares. He’d been a mite astonished when he’d learned where she wanted to go.

She caught his attention as she came out of the terminal, a wee scrap o’ a lass, lugging those two heavy bags. Why hadn’t she hired a porter? he wondered, but didn’t have time for further thought, because she was coming straight toward him. He touched two fingers to his cap in a brief salute.

"Welcome to Shannon, Miss. Can I be helpin’ you with those?" He reached for one of the large cases.

"Oh, thank you." She released the bag gratefully. "I need to go to Ye Little Roadside Inn. Do you know the place?"

"Do I know the place?" he repeated with a smile, blue eyes twinkling. "Sure, an’ isn’t me kinsman Liam the proprietor?"

The Little Roadside Inn. A silly name he had always thought, though he didn’t say so. In spite of the too cute title, it did a thriving business he had to admit. Mostly tourists, who seemed enchanted by its ’quaintness’, not seeing that it was merely a visitor’s idea of how an Irish inn should look and nowhere near to the real thing. She was startled at his claiming kinship to the inn’s owner.

"Oh. Really?"

"That I am. Owned by me cousin’s daughter’s nephew, ’tis."

He was laying on the blather a bit thick, but Eamonn had learned that tourists expected it, especially the Yanks. He discovered quick enough that a thick layer of Gaelic would earn him a bigger tip than his normal accent would. And hadn’t he made a trip to Blarney Castle and kissed the Stone to insure that his tongue didn’t forget that when he had a paying customer in tow?

He looked at the girl, and asked, "But are ya sure ya be wantin’ to go there, lass? ’Tis quite a few kilometers from here. In Ballywalegh, in fact. An’ the fare, well, ’twill be high."

The wan face brightened. "Ballywalegh. Yes," she assured him. "They’re expecting me."

"Ah, well, then." He pulled open the passenger door. "Get in, an’ settle yersel’ an’ we’ll be on our way." He slammed the door shut, stowing the bags in the cab’s boot. Quickly, he slid under the wheel and thrust it into gear with a flourish. "Now then."

Clutching the seat to keep from being jostled from one side to the other, Tammy Wilde allowed herself a slight smile. I’m here. I’m actually here.

"Oh, Fionnula, how could you leave all this?" she whispered, to her absent friend.

With a sigh, she leaned back and forced herself to relax. For the first time since boarding the plane at Atlanta International, she felt she had done the right thing. She studied the back of the cabdriver’s head, noting the fiery curls threaded with white peeking from under the edge of his cap. And a genuine, red-headed Irishman as my cabbie. Then she turned her attention to the scenery flying by outside the window.

Briefly, she was grateful that he wasn’t trying to talk to her as the cabbies in the States would do. The plane trip had tired her more than she expected, and all she wanted to do was get to the inn and have a much-needed nap.

Eamonn, for his part, was studying her image in the rearview mirror. Ordinarily, he’d be jawing away with his passenger, offering side trips to tourist sites or bits of local history, or laying on the blarney, perhaps even doing a little harmless flirting with the ladies, but not with this one. Ah, the lass was pretty enough, but she looked peekey, as if she were recovering from some long illness. Too pale, and too thin. Well, a few of the meals prepared by Cousin Liam’s cook would remedy that. Eamonn refused to call the man a chef, wasn’t he just Seamus Flannery from Dublin, after all? That’d put a little meat on those delicate bones and some color into that wan, pretty face. O’ course, with hair that red, anyone would look pale. No, she didn’t look as if she’d care for his blather.

He turned his eyes from Tammy’s image and concentrated on the road ahead of them. Shannon was quickly left behind, and they hit the highroad for scant seconds before turning onto a little side road that narrowed to little more than an unpaved country lane. Ah, that was more like it. Now, he was in more familiar surroundings. Though Eamonn picked up fares at the airport everyday, he never liked going there. Too busy, too civilized. Give him the glens and dells of Ballywalegh any day. He felt himself relax as they left the highroad and the city behind.

The lass was looking out the window, intent on the countryside. Again, he was tempted to speak to her, ask her why she’d come to his little town. In a nice, unpryin’ way, o’ course. But once more, he stayed silent. Once they slowed for a pony cart pulled by a fat-bellied bay that plodded along in front of the car for a quarter-mile before turning onto a dirt road leading to a whitewashed, thatched-roofed cottage. Another time, a herd of sheep baa-ed across the road, bringing them to a complete stop.

Eamonn stole a glance in the rear-view mirror at his passenger, concerned that she might be angered by this delay. She was watching the trotting sheep, pink mouth slightly open, its corners curving upward, entranced by the sight of so many woolly-coats and black noses as the creatures were hurried along by a red-haired lad with wind-chapped cheeks.

"Don’t worry, lass," Eamonn assured her. "They’ll be across in a few minutes." The smile became larger as she turned to him. Encouraged, he rolled down the window, and stuck his head out. "Get a move on there, ya long-nosed woollies! Can’t ya see me an’ the lass are in a hurry?"

Behind him he heard a whisper of a giggle, quickly cut off as if its owner hadn’t laughed in quite some time. In a few minutes, they were on their way again, over the little wooden bridge that spanned the Ailegh River (the planks rattling under the cab’s wheels), down another long stretch of unpaved road, and then, he was slowing the taxi, and glancing over his shoulder.

"Ballywalegh ahead, Miss."

The car hit a pothole and she put her hands atop her head to protect it as she bounced into the air, nearly butting the roof.

"Oh! Ouch! Good."

He skidded the car around a corner, entering a cobbled street so narrow there wasn’t room for another car to pass. The buildings were brick-and-stone and low-built, hovering over the streets as if protecting them. He turned the taxi into a side street, even narrower than the first. Ballywalegh was quiet and the few people about at that time of morning paid little attention to the taxi speeding down the alley, then skirted the town and emerged onto another dirt road.

With a dust-raising squeal of brakes, they were at their destination.

"Here we are, Miss."

Tammy leaned forward to stare out the window. The inn looked as she had expected, a square, whitewashed building with shuttered windows and a thatch roof. Probably not real thatch, but a good enough copy to fool her tourist’s eyes. It looked like the cottages they’d passed, though not as small as a real cottage, of course, for the inn had 30 rooms. It was a cottage enlarged, and totally enchanting to the young woman looking out at it.

Eamonn started to open the door, but paused, hand on the handle, as her attention wandered to the glen in which the inn was nestled and the mountains far behind it, looming dark and jagged against the early morning sky. She turned her head, to the space between mountain and inn, and what crouched there, surrounded by the vast greenness of the forest and meadow. The ruins of a castle, crumbling stone, and a single blasted tower, stark and gray against the trees, like a finger thrust upward in a crude gesture.

Eamonn’s eyes followed her gaze.

"I see you’ve discovered the castle, Miss."

"It looks so lonely." She shivered, and the movement didn’t escape Eamonn’s attention.

"As well it should. ’Tis Kilmeath Castle."

There was something in the way he spoke the name as if she should recognize it.

"Is it open to the public?"

Eamonn frowned, his florid face darkening, as if he disapproved of her question.

"Oh, you’d not be wantin’ to go there, Miss. Kilmeath Castle is a dead place, full o’ the ghosts of evil deeds an’ not for the likes o’ you. One day, it’ll be nothing but dust, an’ that day can’t come soon enough to my way o’ thinkin’ an’ that’s as it should be." He turned, as if embarrassed by his show of emotion, and pounded on the horn, the sound discordant in the morning stillness. "Eh, Liam! You lazy spalpeen. Get yoursel’ out here an’ greet your guest."

The front door of the inn opened.