Real life intrudes and Morgan must put aside her own dreams for awhile. Five years later, she and her troubadour meet again, AND fate hands her the chance to make her every wish come true. Daniel entices her into a marriage of convenience. Can she save him from the treacherous political legacy of his late wife?
Set in 1871, the story sweeps from the tragedy of the Chicago Fire to the streets of New York and finally to the wild, dangerous coast of Ireland. Is Daniel merely using Morgan for his own deceptions? Or is she right to listen with her heart?
In this excerpt, Morgan has followed the trail of her husband's kidnappers, a ragtag group of Fenians, to an abandoned monastery on a high rocky island off the coast of Ireland:
Eventually, Duff was forced to lower his gun and lend an arm to assist Morgan up the stone steps, slick with seaspray and moss. "A woman in yer condition should be home by the fire, not traipsin' about the countryside."
"Someone should have thought of that before they kidnapped my husband."
"Kidnapped ain't precisely the word for it, now, is it? More like arrested and held in the cause o’ justice, I would say."
What little breath she had whooshed out of her lungs. Gasping, Morgan yanked her arm away from him and leaned against the cliff wall. "Then you do have him!"
"I didn't say that. Exactly."
"But you know what happened to him."
"I've heard of Daniel Connolly, yes. A man lucky in his wives, it seems, if little else."
"Then he's alive?"
His eyes searched hers and whatever look of fear, or misery, or desperation he saw there, he relented and dealt her a tiny scrap of mercy. "Last I heard, he was."
At the top of the steps, a surprising number of tumbled stone dwellings was scattered across the shallow dish of Carr Bearnach's gap. There were far more than was visible from the sea. More vulnerable than Skellig Michael, Bridey had told her, this monastery had borne several Viking invasions to be rebuilt each time more humbly, more huddled together in the center of the gap, out of sight. But when the Viking threat diminished, so had the fervor of its monks. One by one they deserted or died, leaving only the fanatic remnants, zealous hermits who craved the isolation of this gray rock. The last of those died hundreds of years ago, and now their ruined monastery was home to fanatics of another sort.
Not far to the north was Valentia Island, the site of the first trans-Atlantic telegraph connection. With the capture of this island the Fenians had hoped to proclaim success for their uprising around the world in '67. But it was not to be. Foiled again by traitors and informants, the Fenians were broken, arrested, and deported.
Of the few fragments of the group that remained untouched, this bunch at Carr Bearnach was a hapless lot, Bridey had said. This Fenian crew was rife with dissension, blessed only in its choice of hidey-holes. In '67, this group had the chore of plugging the leaks that had ruined every other Fenian plot. Four years later, they were still looking for a way to make up for their failure.
"And what do ye have here, Duff? A past mistake come back to haunt ye?" The man slouched in the doorway of a beehive-shaped hut. Bigger than Duff and better looking, he had a look of danger in his ice blue eyes, a look that made Morgan think he couldﬂ do murder, smiling all the while.
"None o' that now, Plunkett. I'll have ye know, this lady is Mrs. Daniel Connolly. Come all the way from America in search of her husband."
Plunkett straightened and approached them. He circled Morgan, appraising her. "Ah, so. Chasin' after the wild goose, are ye?"
Morgan stood stiffly and endured his humiliating inspection. "Not if my husband is here."
"Maybe he is and maybe he isn't."
"I want to talk to Carew."
"Oh, Carew, is it? What makes you think he can help ye."
"I was told he was your leader."
"And who told ye that? Eamonn, lookin' for a new leader, are ye?"
"I didn't tell her any such thing."
"It wasn't Mr. Duff. I had the information from... from another source."
"Bridey Falkner brung her."
"Ah, well, that explains it. Carew is old news around here. Been gone so long, we plumb forgot what he looks like. I'm the leader now. Tighe Plunkett, at yer sarvice."
"Is my husband here?"
"Supposin' he was, what would ye say?"
"I'd say, you've arrested the wrong person."
Plunkett folded his arms across his chest and looked down his long nose at her. "Did we now?"
Morgan had planned this moment for so long. It was the only way to save him. It all depended on her now. She called on every trace of the actor’s blood in her. "Daniel Connolly did not murder Michael Flynn. I did."
Tighe Plunkett tilted his head back and laughed. He laughed so loud and long that tears ran down his cheeks. "Kilt him, did ye? I'll just bet ye did. I'll bet ye took turns killin' each other. Old Ladykiller Flynn." He poked his finger into her belly. "And is this the evidence ye brought to prove it?"
She caught his finger and squeezed it as hard as she could, gouging him with her nails. A deadly fire leaped behind the ice of his eyes. She let him go. "Don't ever touch me again. And don't you dare laugh at me. I'm telling you the truth. Daniel Connolly is innocent. Michael Flynn is dead because of me."
"Oh, I don't doubt a word ye say, Mrs. Connolly. Not a word." He didn't laugh this time, but he flashed a smile as sharp and deadly as a dagger. "Put her in the tombs, Duff."
"In the tombs? You mean with— ?"
"Alone, ye fool. As our guest, Mrs. Connolly deserves her privacy."
But she was not alone. Not in the tombs, the burial vaults beneath the ruined church at the center of the monastery. Morgan took the thin feather ticking and the blankets that were given her and made a nest of them against one wall. All around her she imagined she heard the whispered prayers of the buried monks. The flickering halo of her one candle cast shadows on the walls, making deep hollows of the carved words and names and dates. Requiescat en pace. Brother Columban. Brother Eustace. Brother Auliffe.
Daniel, where are you? We need you. She tried to sleep but the monks kept whispering. First in prayers. Then in hymns. A voice so sweet, it could have been Daniel's. She almost thought it was Daniel's. And then, at last, she could sleep.