Faerie Tale Queen - Chapters 26 - 30 (Unedited)
Kieren climbed the bottom rung of the fence, rested her arms on the top rail, and watched a new foal test her spindly legs under her mother’s watchful eye. Momentarily frozen in panic, the babe was propelled into motion by a not-so-gentle nudge from the mare. The first tentative, shaky steps were quickly replaced by more confident ones. The foal danced a few steps before she crashed down, and needed to be prompted again by her mother; and so the cycle began, the scene repeated over and over before Kieren’s eyes.
Sensing she was not longer alone, she voiced, “I could watch her for hours.”
“She’s a beauty, she is, but then with bloodlines like hers, how could she not be?”
Kieren looked over her shoulder, and was surprised to be eye to eye with the man who spoke. Her perch was nearly a foot off the ground, and she was not particularly petite, so her visitor was exceptionally tall. However, she felt no threat from him. His face was kind, and his eyes shown with pride as he looked upon mother and baby.
“Come,” he offered gently. “Let me show you the finest stables in all Síocháin.”
Kieren wandered, with her new friend Gabriel, through fields and barns, as well as stables. She was shown, not only the most beautiful horseflesh she had ever seen, but an array of cattle and livestock as well. The exited the stable through a door in the tact room, and Kieren spotted another building. “What’s that building used for?”
A twinkle appeared in Gabriel’s eye, “Come, I’ll show you.” He led her to the stone and wood structure, tossed open the white double doors, and allowed her to precede him into the building. “This my dear, is my guilty pleasure.”
Kieren stood in awe. Unable to help herself, she strolled further into the shop. Her fingers floated reverently over the hand carved pieces as she went. From functional to decorative, every item contained painstaking detail, dovetailed corners, clawed feet, intricate carvings, inlay. “You made all of these.”
“My son and I.” Gabriel confirmed. “This is only a small potion you see. We have been doing this for many years.”
“You Sir, are a true artist.”
Gabriel laughed, “I thank you for your kind words Kieren, but I can assure you, I am not the finest woodworker in all of Síocháin. There are many more talented then I. I’m but a rancher.”
Kieren stared at the objects before her. “I couldn’t imagine anything lovelier than these.” She walked over to a box made of a rich dark wood. On the lid was a carving of a tree. The leaves of the tree were comprised of inlays of several different woods, each varied in texture and color. With two hands, she held the box up, with its lid toward Gabriel, and asked, “If you are capable of creating something as magnificent as this, how can you claim you’re not a woodworker?”
Gabriel laughed again, “You flatter me. Since you fancy the box so much, it’s yours. A gift from me to you.”
“I couldn’t possibly. Surely this holds great value.”
“I insist. Keep it as a souvenir of the lovely day we spent together, your first of many visits to Síocháin, a reminder of your home.”
Knock, knock, knock.
Logan poked his head into the room, “Sorry I just got a call, and I have to leave, but I didn’t want you to wake up and find me gone.”
Kieren swept the hair from her eyes, scootched herself up against the headboard, and cleared her throat. “Is everything okay?”
“Chances are it’s an O.E., operator error, I should be able to correct without too many problems.” He smiled and gave her a wink. “Coffee’s on, and I should be back in a few hours. You’ll be alright until then, right?”
She smiled, she hoped reassuringly, “Yesterday was extenuating circumstance. I’ll be fine.”
“Well, I left my number on the pad in the kitchen, but I’ll be on the mainland, so I left Molly’s number as well. She’d be able to get to you quicker if needed.”
“Logan, I’m fine, honest. I’m a big girl. Now go do what you have to do.”
He eyed her for a moment, walked over and kissed her forehead, “I’ll see you later?”
“Absolutely. Now scoot or you’ll be late.”
“The beast is in the kitchen with a saucer of cream. He’ll keep you company.”
Kieren smiled in earnest. “I’m sure Sebastian and I will find something to keep ourselves occupied until you return.” She shooed him with her hands, “Go already.”
He laughed and gave her a quick peck, “I’m going, I’m going.”
After he closed the door, Kieren decided coffee, breakfast, and then a shower was her best plan. She donned her robe and slippers, and padded to the kitchen. Not only had Logan made coffee, but on the stove were four muffins. He must have taken two for his own breakfast. She snatched one and headed to the coffee pot. Sebastian, obviously finished with his morning treat, was curled up, sound asleep, on a sun drenched chair.
Kieren’s coffee preparation woke him. “Meerroww!” he said with a stretch and a yawn.
“Good morning to you too fine sir.”
He rolled onto his back, and stretched his paws toward Kieren, with his head hung over the side of the chair.
“I see you took your cute pills with your morning cream.”
The cat rolled over, hopped off the chair and onto the counter where Kieren was making her coffee. She narrowed her eyes, not sure if she liked the idea of him on her counter, but then he climbed up her with his front paws, head-butted her chin, and demanded her attention.
With a sigh, she abandoned her coffee, and scooped the cat into her arms for a cuddle. “You, little man, are going to be trouble. No one comes between me and my first morning cup of joe.” Sebastian head-butted her again and started to purr. Kieren buried her face into his soft fur and held him tight, then gave him a kiss on his head and a final scratch behind his ear before she put him on the floor. “Sorry Bub, but I really need my coffee.”
She placed her coffee and muffin on the table, and then went to retrieve the morning paper. Another cup of coffee, a second muffin, and the paper finished, Kieren gave the cat in her lap a nudge. When he looked at her she asked, “So, what should we do today?” His response was to put his head back down and close his eyes. “Perhaps it suits you to laze the day away, but I can’t.” She placed Sebastian on the floor and stood. The cat’s expression told her, in no uncertain terms, he was not pleased, and he became more offended when she laughed at him.
She chuckled as the cat sauntered off to find another location for his nap. “Perhaps you’ll find the window seat in my office more to your liking.”
While she showered and dressed, she marveled at the human qualities Sebastian appeared to possess, and played around with ideas for a story which would feature him. Would he simply be a cat with an amazing personality, or would he be a human reincarnated as a cat? Maybe he would be a magical being disguised as a cat. Kieren liked the last scenario, but stopped her imagination from wandering further. She had three more books in her series to finish before she could entertain the notion of starting a new project.
“How did I know I’d find you here?” Kieren quipped as she entered her office. Sebastian opened one eye, then promptly shut it again, and returned to his nap in the sun. “Well, excuse me for disturbing you. It shan’t happen again.”
‘Shan’t.’ Really? I haven’t even been here a week. What’s it going to be like after a year? Soon I’ll be using words like ‘loopers’ or calling the stove a ‘cooker’ without even thinking about it. Leila will have a field day with me if I don’t watch it.
“Well, these books aren’t going to write themselves. Time to get to work.” Kieren flopped into her chair and swiveled into position, then froze. There, on the corner of her desk, was Gabriel’s box. She knew it had not been there before. How? What? Tentatively she reached forward with a shaky hand, then retreated. “I can’t deal with this right now.” She pushed away from the desk and the offending object, and stood. Sebastian hopped down from the window seat, and began to wind himself around her legs, so she scooped him up and left the room.
For a moment, she debated whether she should call Logan or not, but decided it could wait until he came home. She did, however, pick up the phone.
“Molly? This is Kieren.”
“Good mornin’ to you Kieren. To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?”
“Any chance you’re not working today?”
“I am, but I don’t have to be at the pub until later.” Molly sensed something in Kieren’s voice, so she added. “Would you care to come over? We could spend a few hours getting to know each other better.”
“Actually, I was going to invite you for a walk so we could do just that, but after yesterday’s adventure, I think I like your idea better.”
Molly laughed, “You’ll get used to traveling by bike soon enough. We all do, especially when you have to go to the mainland for petrol. Give me half an hour to get cleaned up, would ya?”
“Of course.” Kieren jotted down directions to Molly’s home, thanked her new friend, and hung up.
Sebastian blinked at her.
He curled his tail around his front paws and stared at her.
“Stop looking at me like that. I really would like to get to know Molly. The box just made me call her a little earlier than planned.”
His tail twitched a few times, he stood, then sauntered away.
I can’t believe a cat is making me feel guilty. To eschewed her guilt, she retrieved one of her books from her meager inventory, signed it ‘To my new friend, Molly’, and then wrapped it up in pretty paper she had found in the hall closet. Gift and directions in hand, she scooted Sebastian out the door with a promise she would return in a few hours, and headed to Molly’s.
Kieren was surprised when she pulled into Molly’s drive. For some reason, she had pictured Molly’s home as a cottage, much like Logan’s. She was wrong. Molly’s home resembled a quaint mountain chalet, with a wrap-around deck, and a front made completely of glass.
The door opened as Kieren climbed the stairs. “Fáilte!” Molly greeted with a smile. “Fáilte go dtí mo bhaile. Welcome to my home.”
“Thank you, and thank you for the translation. My Gaelic is virtually non-existent.”
“Ach, you’ll pick it up just fine. But, so you know, what you’ll be learnin’ is a bastardized version for sure. Very few speak pure Gaelic anymore. Come, come. Let me take your jacket. I’ve a pot steeping on the table, and some fresh biscuits for us to share.”
“Sounds lovely.” Kieren relinquished her coat and followed Molly to the sunroom. “Oh, what a charming room! If I had a room like this, I would never leave my house.” There were plants, of every shape, color and size, everywhere. The smaller, more colorful ones, lined the window ledge, there was an array of small trees and shrubs in front of them, and flowering baskets hung centered at each of the six windows. The natural wicker couches and chairs were adorned with vibrantly colored cushions and pillows, and palm fans stirred the air. “I feel like I’ve stepped into the tropics.”
“Then I have achieved my goal. Although I love Tallymore with all my heart, and I would never dream of leaving, the weather can weigh heavy on a soul from time to time.” Molly spread her arms and turned in a slow circle. “So I created my little oasis.”
“Sit and take a load off,” Molly scrutinized her for a second, then continued, “and from the looks of you, I’d say the load would be more from your mind than your feet.”
Kieren wrinkled her nose. “That obvious, huh?”
“Think nothin’ of it. I would be more concerned if you didn’t look a bit frazzled. Your grandfather just passed, and you’re in a new country where you know all of two people. Ah, but a few good friends is all you’ll need to help you get settled, and I’m looking forward to being one of them.” Kieren spontaneously hugged Molly. “Not that I mind a bit Kieren, but what was that about?”
“I don’t care what Logan says, you are sweet. Thank you for making me feel so welcome, so at home.”
“But Kieren, this is your home. You may not have been brought up here, but since this was Paddy’s home, it is yours as well.” Kieren did not know how to respond to the conviction in Molly’s voice. Her confusion must have showed on her face, because Molly took her hand and led her to the couch. After they sat, Molly tried to explain, “To the Irish, there is nothing more precious than family and good friends. We protect and cherish that which is ours. Paddy was one of ours, and so are you.”
“How can you say that?” Kieren searched Molly’s eyes. “You don’t even know me.”
“Another thing we Irish are good at is judging character, but with you being Irish through and through, I think you know that already, don’t you?”
Kieren wrinkled her brow and pondered Molly’s words, “I guess I am a pretty good judge of character, now that you mention it.” She admitted with a chuckle. “But what I thought we were most famous for was our whisky and our story telling?”
“True, true,” Molly began to laugh. “And if you combine the second with the first, it’s sure to be a tale for the centuries.” After she caught her breath she added, “Now what’s this about Logan saying I’m not sweet?” and the women began to laugh again.
With the tension broken, Kieren began to relax. “Oh, I almost forgot,” Kieren exclaimed as she reached into the oversized satchel she used as a purse. “I brought you a little something.”
“Oh, you didn’t have to do that.” Molly said as she reached for the gift.
“It’s just a little something, more for your kids than for you actually. How old are they? Logan wasn’t sure.”
“Typical male.” Molly shook her head. “Dylan Michael is seven, but since he just had his birthday, I’ll forgive Logan for not being sure. As for Elizabeth Grace, he has no excuse for not knowing she’s four, her being his Goddaughter and all.”
“Logan’s your daughter’s Godfather?”
Molly unwrapped her gift as she explained. “My husband, Michael, has a brother and a sister, and I only have a sister. So when Dylan was born, my sister and Michael’s brother were his Godparents. When Gracie was born, obviously Michael’s sister was the Godmother, and I chose Logan as her Godfather, since he was the closest I had to a brother.
“Oh Kieren, thank you. Both of my little ones love your stories.”
“You’ve read them?” Kieren was surprised.
“They are a bed time favorite. Dylan fashions himself the handsome prince, and Gracie tells be that someday, she’ll marry the prince so she could live in Grá.”
“Then I guess it wasn’t such a good present, since you have the book already.”
“Oh no, Kieren, it’s a wonderful gift. All the more special since it came from you.”
“Can I ask you something?” Kieren continued after Molly nodded. “Had you ever heard of Grá before you read my book?”
Molly gave her a strange look, “Now that’s an odd question. Where would I have heard of Grá if not from your books?”
Kieren sighed. “My whole series of books were based on bedside stories Paddy used to tell me when I was a child. I had always assumed they were common Irish fairy tales, but if Logan had never heard of it, and now you never heard of it, I guess they were Paddy’s stories alone.”
“Well love, as you well know, we have more than our fair share of tales and lore, but I never visited Grá until you brought me and my children there.”
“Wish I could say the same.” Kieren muttered under her breath.
“What was that?” Molly asked with a tilt of her head.
“Nothing. Nothing, don’t mind me.” Kieren tried to give a reassuring smile. “Is the tea ready?”
Kieren stayed until Molly needed to leave to pick Gracie up from school and get her to dance class, then get Dylan from school, pick up Gracie again, get home from the mainland, help with homework, make dinner, all in time for her to report for her shift at Shenanigans. Kieren did not know how Molly did it, and said as much to her. Molly just laughed and said it was simply what a mother does.
The two hour diversion with Molly went a long way to calm Kieren’s frazzled nerves, but she still was not ready to go home and face the implications of Gabriel’s box. Nor did she want to think about it now, so she elected to explore the main street through town. Although it was not much, less than two of her city blocks, she figured it would kill just enough time where she would not be home for long before Logan arrived.
She started at the end furthest from the church, in a crafts shop opposite the market. The shop keeper greeted her when she walked through the door. “Fáilte! Welcome to Snips-n-Snaps. My name is Millicent, but they call me Millie, and you must be Kieren Cleary. I had so hoped you would stop by.”
Kieren was startled by the greeting, “How could you know that?”
“When a town’s as small as this one here, word travels fast.” Millie chuckled. “That and you being Paddy’s granddaughter didn’t hurt none either.”
“Fair enough,” Kieren conceded. “Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you Millie.”
“And I, you. Now what can I be getting you today, or are you just having a look around?”
Kieren fingered a sweater. “Just being nosey. Did you make this?”
“My sister crocheted that particular one,” Millie pointed to a display of knitting needles. “But I made that one over there.” She pointed in another direction, “and those hats, scarves and mittens. I’m the knitter. Do you knit Kieren?”
Kieren shook her head, “I never had anyone to teach me.”
“Well, that’s a shame that is, but if you’re interested in learning, either Trudy, that’s my sister, or I would be more than happy to show you.”
“That’s very generous of you.” Kieren said as she stroked her hand down the sweater’s arm, “but I doubt I would ever be able to make anything as beautiful as this.”
Mille let out a laugh, “Not if you attempt a sweater on your first try. It would be a disaster for sure. No, a scarf would, or maybe even a potholder would be your first project, and then we could move on from there. Ah, but no pressure. I wouldn’t think any less of you if knitting wasn’t your thing. Not many young women have the time for knitting and crocheting. It’s a sport for woman my age.”
“I don’t think that’s true Millie. A few of my friends knit, and you are hardly doddering.”
“Just turned sixty-five last month, so I’m much closer to doddering than to your friends.”
Kieren blinked as she eyed the beautiful woman in front of her. “Sixty-five? I would have had you pushing forty.”
“Made a detour to Blarney Castle on your way to Tallymore I see.”
Right hand raised, Kieren swore, “On my honor. Are you sure you’re not the one who has been kissing the stone, and is now pulling my leg?”
Millie grinned, “I’m going to like you just fine Kieren Cleary, just fine.”
Kieren chatted with Millie for a few more minutes before she proceeded with her meandering. Unable to resist, she strolled into the bakery, purchased some fresh bread and a few confections, and placed them into the basket she had bought at Millie’s shop. She peeked into the window of a clothing store, but decided not to visit. Then she popped into a glass shop, and purchased a small stain glass claddagh ornament she thought would look lovely hanging in her kitchen window.
Her newest find safely wrapped and tucked away in her basket, she continued her walk. She admired the architecture of the buildings, and although she knew most had been remodeled recently, they still had the look of being very old. The end of the block housed a books store, so she wandered inside. As she entered, she inhaled deeply and let out an audible sigh.
“I agree. There’s nothing quite like the smell of books.” Kieren turned toward the voice, which came from behind a display of books. The old man held several books in one arm, and was using his other hand to rearrange the display to make room for the new arrivals. His smile was warm and inviting as he offered, “Go have yourself a look, take your time, enjoy. If you find something you like, there’s some seats in the back, and I’ve just made a fresh pot of tea. Feel free to help yourself.”
“Thank you.” Kieren returned his smile.
“If you need me, I’ll be here futzin’ with these for a bit.”
Kieren looked at the arrangement of books; Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, K. Edwin Fritz, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Derek Landy, “And what do you have there?”
He turned so Kieren could see the books he held, “Just came in yesterday. He’s a new American horror author, so with All Hallows Eve coming, I decided a cluster of scary novels, right up front, would work well.”
“I can’t believe you actually have this. I thought I was the only one who had heard of this author. He’s so new.”
“My granddaughter gave me a copy of his first one, Man Hunt, last Christmas, and I was really impressed, so much so, I ordered copies for my shop. Then, when I saw the second one in the series came out, Woman Scorned, I had to get copies as well.” He gave her a sheepish grin, “I stayed up all night reading it. It was even better than the first one.”
“Even better? Since I loved the first one, even though it gave me nightmares for a week after I read it, I’ll have to take one of those.”
He handed her a copy, “Well then, here you go.”
“Thank you.” She said as she eagerly reached for the book. “Now, forgive me for asking, and feel free to tell me it’s none of my business, but you’re not from around here, are you?”
The man grinned, “I can say the same about you. It’s kind of hard for us Americans to go unnoticed around here, isn’t it? My wife and I retired here about five years ago. We’re originally from Providence.”
Kieren’s eyes widened. “Tallymore is a long way from Rhode Island. How did you ever end up here?”
“A while back my wife got on a genealogy kick, and insisted we needed to visit the homes of our ancestors. So each summer, when we were on break, my wife and I were both teachers, we would visit the towns where our great grandparents were born. One of our trips led us to Tallymore, and we fell in love with the town. The rest, as they say, is history.”
“So you have relatives here?”
He shook his head, “My wife has a distant cousin still living here, but it’s only him and his wife.” He pointed out the window. “They run the inn across the street. What about you? What brings you to our little rock floating off the coast of Ireland?”
“My grandfather. When he passed away, in his will, he insisted I spend some time at his home here. So that’s what I’m doing.”
“Well, I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather.” He offered her his hand, “I’m Tom by the way.”
Kieren shook his hand, “Kieren.”
“Kieren?” Tom furrowed his brow. “Kieren Cleary?”
“Let me guess, you either knew my grandfather, or you heard of my arrival through the flash flood gossip this town seems to be famous for.”
Tom laughed, “No, and no. What kind of bookstore owner would I be if I didn’t recognize the name of our town’s one and only author?”
Kieren flushed, “Oh, I didn’t even think of that. Sorry.”
“No worries, no offense taken.” Tom assured. “So, how long will you be staying?”
“Oh, that long, huh?”
Kieren could not help but chuckle at his tone. “Uh-oh, why?”
“Perhaps during your stay, you might be interested in reading one of your books to the children, maybe sign some copies. My wife and I could whip up a nice little event.”
“I’d be happy to.” Kieren walked over to the counter, grabbed a pen and pencil, and jotted down her phone number. “Here’s my number. Give me a call next week and we’ll see if we can pin down a date.”
“Excellent. Ginny will be thrilled when I tell her.” Tom rang up Kieren’s sale. “You’ll have to tell me if you liked the book.”
“I will.” She promised, then she thanked him again and left.
She stood on the corner and looked up and down the street, then decided she was not longer in a shopping mood. Movement near the church caught her eye. She let out a heavy sigh, narrowed her eyes, and marched across the road. If nothing else, she was determined to get to the bottom of one mystery.
She laid her basket down on the work table with a solid thunk, placed her hands on her hips, and demanded, “I want to know, right now, what I did to offend you. For as far as I knew, we were headed to becoming friends, until you preformed your little disappearing act yesterday. You upset me, and you embarrassed your son.”
Evan’s body tensed, then he inhaled a deep breath and let it out slowly, “You’re right Kieren. There is no excuse for the way I acted, and I am sincerely sorry. You child have done nothing wrong.”
Kieren relaxed her posture and searched his eyes, “Then what happened? I don’t understand.”
Evan looked away, “I’d rather not discuss it. Just know I will never again judge you by your family. Now please Kieren, I have a lot to do today. They are forecasting three straight days of rain, and I need to have the church secure so all our hard work does not get ruined. Have a good day.”
Kieren again found herself starting at Evan’s retreating back. Never again will he judge me by my family. Well what the hell’s that supposed to mean. Did Paddy do something to him? Did my parents? Instead of solving a mystery, I just got myself more confused than I was before. Great job.
She let out a yelp when she felt arms come around her waist, but then relaxed when she hear Logan’s voice, “What are you doing up here?”
She spun around to face him, “I was trying to figure out what set your father off yesterday.”
“And,” Logan raised an eyebrow, “what did he have to say for himself?”
“He said he was sorry and he would never judge me by my family again, but I have no idea what he meant by that.” Kieren watched Logan’s expression change. “Do you know what he meant?”
“And are you planning on sharing any of those insights with me?”
Resigned, Logan relented, “Fine, I’ll tell you what I know, but just so you know, what I’ll be telling you is what my sisters have told me from conversations they overheard between my parents over the years. Also, I won’t be telling you anything here and now. All I’ve had to eat today were those two muffins I took this morning, and I’m starving.”
“Sounds fair.” Kieren said with a nod. “My car’s parked up the road. We’ll go home, eat, and then you start talking.” She hesitated a moment and then added. “There’s something I wanted to show you anyway.”
Logan pointed to the basked on the table, “Yours?” When she nodded, he scooped up her basket, laced his fingers through hers, and said, “Okay then, let’s go home.”
During the ride home, and while they prepared their meal, they exchanged stories of their day. The domesticity of it all made Logan smile. It was nice to come home at the end of the day and have someone to share with, and he said as much to Kieren.
“So, should I be steering clear of Molly for a bit?”
Kieren paused in her salad preparation to stare at him in confusion. “Whatever would make you ask that?”
“I just figured, with the two of you together, I would be in trouble somehow.”
Kieren laughed, “No, other than you not being sure how old your Goddaughter is, you have not committed any infractions.”
“Good to know.” He sighed with exaggerated relief.
“You don’t have any plans for Saturday night, do you?”
“From the way you asked, I’m thinking I do now.”
Kieren grinned, “Because I invited Molly, Michael and the kids for dinner. I was kinda hoping you would come too.”
He kissed her temple, “I wouldn’t miss it. So you and Molly have really hit it off? I’m glad, just so long as it doesn’t lead to any headaches for me.”
“Why would it cause you headaches?”
“As you know Molly and me go way back, and I don’t have many secrets she doesn’t know about.”
“Oh, what kind of secrets?” She teased.
Logan kissed her nose, took the salad bowls from her hands and placed them on the table, “Secrets from my wayward days which may sway your opinion of me.”
“Ooo, do tell.”
“Not on your life. The past is the past, and its better left there.”
Logan narrowed his eyes and started to advance, “I’m not liking that glint I see.”
Kieren squealed and scurried around the island, out of his reach. “Okay, okay. I will not to press Molly for any details from your misbegotten youth.” When Logan put his hands on his hips and narrowed his eyes further, she added, “I promise.”
Unable to contain his smile, Logan motioned with his head toward the food laden table, “Come on, let’s eat before I faint dead away from starvation.”
“You have the appetite of a teenage boy, you know that? There’s enough food here for six people.”
He surveyed the fare and grimaced, “I guess I did get a little carried away. Perhaps it’s not only grocery shopping you shouldn’t do while you’re hungry.”
“No worries. It just means we won’t have to cook another night.” Kieren looked at all the food, “Perhaps for the next several nights, or for lunches, or...”
“Point taken.” He growled playfully. “Can we eat now?”
“I wouldn’t dream of detaining you any longer.” She said as she grabbed the bowl of steamed broccoli in front of her.
Logan plopped a mountain of mashed potatoes on his plate and swapped bowls with Kieren. “So, you mentioned you wanted to show me something?”
“It’s in my office. I’ll show you after dinner.” Kieren stabbed a piece of meat on the platter, and dropped it on her plate. “You on the other hand agreed to tell me what was up with your father.”
“That I did.” He said around a mouthful. After he chewed and swallowed, he continued. “This is all second hand mind you.”
“We’ve established that already.”
“So we have.” He sighed and took a swallow of his wine.
“Will you stop procrastinating? I assure you, I will not shoot the messenger.”
“Very well. At one time, your mother and my father were very close.”
When Logan pause to collect his thoughts, Kieren interjected, “So that’s it? What, was you father mad at my mother for marrying my dad?”
“No, it wasn’t like that at all. They were friends, nothing more, and from what I can gather, they remained dear friends until your mother’s passing.”
“I think I’m more confused now.”
“And what I’m about to tell you won’t be clearing it up much either. Now this is also the part which is coming from diluted sources.” When Kieren nodded her understanding, Logan continued, “It all has something to do with your parent’s death. My sister overheard my father say to my mum, that it wasn’t an accident, and that it was all your grandfather’s fault.”
“That’s impossible. Although I can’t remember, Paddy was with me when my parents were killed. They had gone out to dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday, and their car went off the road on their way back to Paddy’s house.”
“It was a Friday night. Your mother was turning twenty-five on Sunday, and there was going to be a small party for her at the house. Your parents went out by themselves to celebrate, and because they had something important to discuss. They never made it back home.”
“How do you know that?”
“As I said, I have nosey older sisters who were quite proficient at eavesdropping.”
“But that doesn’t explain why you know it.”
“Ah, okay, I see your point. When I told the family I was going to take over for my grandfather here at the house, it caused quite a furor with my father. He started yelling and ranting, then stormed out of the room when I told him I was a grown man and could make my own decisions. That’s when Grace and Kathryn pulled me aside and told me what they had overheard.”
“Well, what was the important thing they needed to discuss? Did my mom discuss it with your father? And I still don’t understand how a car accident could be Paddy’s fault when he wasn’t even in the car.”
Logan shook his head and shrugged his shoulders, “I did warn you love that what I knew could very well add to your confusion.” He reached across the table and squeezed her hand. “I’d tell you more if I knew.”
“I know you would, thank you for telling me what you know, even though it just added to my growing list of mysteries which need to be solved.” When Logan sent her a quizzical look, she elaborated, “The paintings, the dreams, the box, the important discussion.”
“That’s what I wanted to show you.” Kieren fluttered her hands over the food. “Are you done here?”
Logan popped the last piece of meat into his mouth. “I am now.”
“Okay, let’s leave this, we can clean it up later.”
“Not unless you want Sebastian to help himself to a delectable dinner. Hey, where is the little beastie anyway?”
Kieren looked around the kitchen, only then noticing her favorite feline was MIA. “I scooted him outside when I left for Molly’s. I haven’t seen him since.”
“Odd, I’ve never known him to be far away when there was food to be had.”
Kieren worried her lip, “Should we go look for him?”
“I’m sure he’s just fine.” Logan assured. “He’s off, curled up somewhere warm, snoozing away. Come, show me this box you’ve added to your list of mysteries.”
“And you’re sure this wasn’t here before?” Logan asked for the third time.
“I’m telling you, IT WAS NOT THERE.” Kieren annunciated in frustration. “The only place I had ever seen that box was in my dream.”
Logan turned the box over one last time, set it back down on the desk, and scratched his chin. “If you’re sure, then I can’t say I blame you for not wanting to stay here by yourself today. It is beautiful, I’ll give it that.”
“Oh, and I haven’t shown you the best part.” Kieren flipped open the lid, retrieved the piece of paper tucked inside, handed it to Logan, then watched his eyes widen as he read. “How do you explain that?”
“Not any better than I can explain the box, that’s for sure.” He handed Gabriel’s note to Kieren back to Kieren, and she returned it to the box.
Kieren buried her face in her hands and mumbled, “I’m losing my mind.”
“Well love, unless we are sharing some delusion, then either I’m losing my mind as well, or somehow this is all really happening.”
“How is this possible?”
Kieren’s eyes implored him to give an answer, but he had none to offer. “For argument’s sake, we take into account this is all real. Who do you think would be able to give you an answer as to what is happening?”
Logan chuckled and ran his fingers through his hair, “Remind me to be far away if you ever figure out how to accomplish that.” He began to pace in front of her desk. “Okay, there may be a way for you to do that, without holding a séance. Did Paddy have a journal or something?”
“Not that I know of. Even if he did, we probably wouldn’t be able to read it, his hand writing was atrocious.”
He stared at the wall of books behind her, “If not Paddy, what about someone else? This house has been in your family forever, it could be possible someone kept a journal.”
Kieren sighed, pushed her chair away from the desk, and stood, “What the heck, it’s better than any idea I have been able to come up with.”
Together they searched, but came up with nothing. “Can you think of anywhere else in the house we could look?”
“The only other place I can think of, would be the attic,” Kieren said after some thought. “I saw a ton of crates and trunks up there when I stored my moving boxes.”
Logan rubbed his hands together, “Sounds like a plan. Shall we?”
“Honestly Logan, I’ve had just about enough today.” She confessed. “Can we deal with this tomorrow… or the next day… or the next?”
He pulled her in for a hug, “Putting it off indefinitely will not solve anything love, but we can let it rest until morning. We’ll have a good hearty breakfast, then it’s up to the attic we’ll go.” He kissed her temple. “Hopefully, by this time tomorrow we’ll have some answers.” He glanced at the clock, “It’s still early. Would you like to bundle up and go for a walk?”
She bit her lip and looked up at him, “Could we just stay here? We’re home, we’re warm…we’re safe.”
Her last mumbled words struck a chord in him, and he pushed her away slightly so he could look directly into her eyes, “Don’t let this, whatever ‘this’ is, stop you from living your life. I know you’re afraid, but also know you are not alone, and I will do everything in my power to protect you.”
“And how do you propose to guard against something we know nothing about or how to defend against?”
Kieren’s words brought him up short. She was right. He had never known such terror as he had in Orlagh’s Circle, when he saw Kieren in a panic and he was not able to get to her. The memory made him shudder, and he pulled her close. “All the more reason to find out what we’re dealing with, but, for tonight, we can let it rest. So, another movie?”
“I doubt I have the energy to focus on a movie. Let’s just turn on the TV to some mindless show, and veg.”
“Yeah, you know, veg out, act like a bunch of couch potatoes.”
Logan chuckled, “And you have the nerve to tease me about my, what did you call them, Irishisms?”
Kieren laughed, “Who would have thought there would be such a language barrier between us, when we both supposedly spoke English?”
“Be thankful I’m not Scottish, then you wouldn’t have understood a word I was saying.”
“Stop that,” Kieren swatted his arm. “I find a Scottish brogue quite charming.”
“But it’s nothing compared to the lilting tones of an Irish tongue.”
“Yet it holds a whole lot less Blarney…”
Logan placed his hand over his heart. “Agh, you wound me lass, you wound me.”
“You’ll live. Let’s go.”
While Logan flipped through the channels, Kieren retrieve some drinks and a bag of chips on from the kitchen. Her proffered snack led to a playfully heated debate over the terms chips vs. crisps vs. fries. They spent a quiet evening, snuggled on the couch in front of the television, but as the hour grew late, Logan rose to leave.
“You’re leaving?” Kieren asked, not able to hide all the distress from her voice.
“I don’t have to, if you don’t want me to, but I do have to check on Sebastian.”
“I’ll come with you.”
Not wanting to embarrass her, Logan simply smiled and told her to bundle up. Together, hand in hand, they headed toward his cottage, their path illuminated by the moon. Although surprised not to find the cat waiting on his porch, or that he had not used the doggie door to gain access to the house, Logan was not terribly concerned by his absence. “He’s probably out tomming.”
“Frolicking with all the female kitties.”
“Oh, ohh.” Understanding dawned on Kieren’s face. “Does he do that often?”
“Not at all, so I would say he’s past due. I’m sure he’ll be at your door for breakfast with a smile on his face.”
“Is that so?”
“It is.” Logan threw some things into a bag, so he could shower and change at Kieren’s, then he put down some fresh water for Sebastian. “He can get into the house if he wants. He has food and water, so I can leave with a clear conscious.”
“Alrighty then. If you’re not worried, then I won’t be either.”
When they arrived back in her kitchen, Kieren let loose a heavy breath.
“Were you holding it the entire walk home?”
Slightly embarrassed, she replied, “Maybe.”
“Oh sweetling,” Logan pulled her into his arms and kissed her. “Tomorrow, we’ll get to the bottom of this. It tears at my heart to see you so frightened.”
“I feel like such a ninny.” She wrapped her arms tightly around his waist. “I grew up in the city for Pete’s sake. There I had to deal with, gangs, muggings, shootings and even a terrorist attack, which I think I handled better than I’m handling this.”
“Terrible, I’m sure, but none of those were directed at you, were they?” He felt her shake her head against his chest, “Then I’d say they were quite different than this.”
“Yeah, this is only affecting one person, so it’s a lot less significant.”
“Not when that one person is you. Kieren, if you see a story in the paper, about a man being chased by a rabid dog, you would react a whole lot differently than if the rabid dog was chasing you. Am I right?”
She had to concede to his logic, “It doesn’t make me feel less of a ninny though.”
“Then I guess I’m a ninny too,” he stated. “Because my eyes were looking every which way while we were walking the path.”
“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
“I honestly wasn’t, but did it?”
Kieren furrowed her brows, “Did it what?”
“Make you feel better.”
She twisted her lips, “I’m not sure.” Logan bent his head, kissed her pursed lips, and she smiled, “but that did.”
“Oh did it now?”
“If I had known that’s all it would take, I would have done that hours ago.”
“Then silly me for not suggesting it sooner.” Kieren raised up on her toes and nipped at Logan’s lower lip.
With a low growl, Logan lifted her by her hip, placed her on the counter, and moved in for a proper kiss, but paused when she giggled. “What?”
“I always assumed that move was reserved for the movies.” She nuzzled his neck just below his ear, then bit his earlobe and whispered, “I had always envisioned what it would be like to be part of one of those steamy scenes.”
“Well, I may not be a leading man, but I’ll do my best to make your little fantasy play out.” Kieren let out a little squeak when Logan swept her up into his arms, and carried her out of the room.