The Brightest Flame in Ballymuir
Ballymuir Series, Book Three
by Dorien Kelly
Author’s Preferred E-book Edition Published September 2012
(originally published by Pocket in November 2005, titled Hot Whispers of an Irishman)
Maeve Kilbride’s house smelled of furniture polish and resentment. That, Vi had concluded sometime late the prior night, was no atmosphere in which to have a good sleep. It was not yet eight and already she was on the road from Kilkenny to Duncarraig. And this from a woman who’d prefer to work late and rise even later.
To Vi’s left, her dog, Rog, had his nose pressed to the window, growling at sheep in the field as though he’d never before seen them.
“You’re brave enough at this speed, aren’t you?” she teased.
He gave her a look as though to say he’d be braver yet on the ground. Much as she loved a good wander, Vi wasn’t of the mind to oblige him. Today she meant to come up with a plan, to make some sense of the disaster occupying Nan’s house. She longed to have the place perfect, not sterile like Mam’s by any means, but the warm home she recalled from her youth. Of course with Nan gone, and Vi’s frustrating lack of focus as of late, that was asking much. Still, far less mess would be required before she could permit a real estate agent in.
As Vi arrived in Duncarraig, she slowed beneath what the law would require. Yesterday, she’d allowed herself a cool inventory of shops and buildings, but had looked no deeper. And the time before that--ten years ago when she’d been here for Nan’s funeral--her sight had been none too clear. It had been dulled by grief and blinkered by the fear that Liam Rafferty would somehow return from America. He hadn’t, of course. She doubted that it had been out of concern for her feelings. He’d operated more on a grand scale of disregard.
“Prosperous,” she said, taking in all the new brick-fronted buildings built to emulate the older architecture of the town. Rafferty’s Market’s window signs boasted catering, imported specialty foods, and organic produce. Vi smiled. Jenna, her best friend back in Ballymuir, was a chef and would dearly love to have something this sophisticated nearby her restaurant.
Vi tapped the brakes and then came to a halt when she saw the name painted on the door in gold leaf: “Nora Rafferty, Proprietor.”
“Ah, Nora. You’ve done well for yourself, girl.”
She and Nora had once been friends. Then again, she’d once felt as though this town were hers to rule. No more, though. She was about to pull away when she saw a lone figure running down the walk. The light was dim yet, with the pale autumn sun taking its time in rising. Still, Vi could see that the person was male and tall, moving with athletic ease.
As he drew closer, her heart sped and her skin grew chill. Were it not for yesterday’s mouse incident, she’d believe that the second sight was on her. This morning she was more inclined to think that indigestion might be setting in.
The man was a block away now. Roger began to growl. The sensation filling Vi grew stronger, and she gave in to the inevitable. She let her eyes slip closed, waiting... waiting...
The feeling passed, and she opened her eyes. She gripped her steering wheel tighter, murmuring a heartfelt curse in the Irish that Nan had taught her.
“Indigestion for certain,” she said to Rog, who was now baring his upper teeth at the approaching jogger. “And have you an excuse?”
He barked, and Vi looked more closely at the stranger.
Her breath left her in a wordless gasp, for toward her ran the ghost of Liam Rafferty.
It could be Cullen, she told herself, or perhaps Jamie or one of the countless dark-haired Rafferty cousins. They’d be running on this fine morning, not a man whom she knew had moved thousands of miles away. Aye, it could be Jamie Rafferty all grown up, but the rapid drumming of Vi’s heart told her otherwise.
It was Liam, God help her...
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