Lovers

The Irish Castle

The Glenncailty Ghosts, Book 2

Lila Dubois

Prologue

Ghosts come in all forms—memories that linger, déjà vu in a child’s smile, and occasionally, when the combination of death and pain is just right, they appear as human forms made of smoke and shadow that walk among the living.

They wait and watch, looking for themselves in the living. Some mean harm, some want to help—to prevent others from making the mistake that condemned them to roam the earth. The lessons the dead have to teach are not always heard, but those who ignore the ghosts’ warnings do so at their own peril.

Chapter 1

A view like this inspired either romantic longing or bitter loneliness.

For Mary Callahan, it was both.

She rolled down the window of her rental car, letting in the cool, wet Irish air. She’d cranked up the heat when she got in and now the windows were fogged, making the misty morning seem downright gloomy. But the gloom didn’t dampen the romance of the view—rolling emerald green hills dotted with fat white sheep and quaint stone cottages. She took a breath, tasting the loam of the earth. The scents and landscape were foreign to her, and yet felt familiar.

Little by little the windows cleared. Outside, the silvery light fell over the small white flowers that dotted the foliage beside the road. The rain made the land sparkle, as if it weren’t raindrops, but diamonds, that fell from the sky. Resisting the urge to jump out and take yet another photo, Mary keyed her destination into the car’s GPS system.

“Glenncailty.” She keyed in the location, talking to herself to push away the loneliness. “Birthplace of one Mary Callahan.”

She’d been in Ireland a few days and painful experience had taught her that in a country without ZIP codes, and sometimes without street numbers, the best way to get somewhere was to ask, not to rely on a piece of electronic equipment the way she would have at home in Chicago. But on this deserted stretch of road there was no one to ask. And she wasn’t in the mood to approach a stranger and have a ten-minute conversation about the fact she was American—a dead giveaway once she opened her mouth—or where in America she was from. She especially didn’t want to answer questions about whether or not she had family here in Ireland.

With the GPS ready, and more importantly a printed list of directions on the passenger seat, Mary put the car in gear and headed deep into the Irish countryside in search of Glenncailty—the valley of the lost.

With each kilometer she found herself more enchanted by the Irish countryside. But that enchantment brought on melancholy. She was falling in love with something that was a part of her past, not her future.

She’d come to Ireland for The Gathering—the year when the Emerald Isle called all of her children home. And despite her protests that home was, and always would be, Chicago, Mary could not deny that some part of her belonged here. She was an Irish citizen.

Mary and her grandparents had emigrated after the death of Mary’s parents during the Troubles—a kind euphemism for the violence, bombings and murders that rocked the country in the latter decades of the 20th Century. She’d been raised in Chicago since she was two, and until now had never set foot in her native Ireland. When she was younger she hated her homeland, because every time her grandparents talked about it sadness settled over their little house. Mary was a proud American and had never planned to return to this place she didn’t even remember. Now, at her grandparents’ request, she was back, one of the hundreds of thousands of Irish emigrants and descendants who would “come home.”

And here she was, probably lost, looking for the tiny village where her parents had met and married. How appropriate that it was called the valley of the lost. Mary was feeling more than a little lost lately.

* * * *

Michael Baker smiled as the glen came into view. The valley was hidden away out in the Meath countryside, rural as could be despite its location only a few hours from Dublin. Narrow at the far end, it opened like a fan into an area a few miles across. The village of Cailtytown spread across the flat land. From the ridge where the road ran he could see the patchwork of fields with their dry-stack stonewalls, the too-narrow roads that wound through clusters of houses and shops. Farmland surrounded the town, making it seem like a little island of people amid a sea of green. As the glen narrowed, the fields grew wild, and at the narrowest point sat the castle.

Gray shadows fell over the old fortified manor house. Whatever it may have been, it was now and always had been known as Glenncailty Castle. When he was a child, Michael and his mates’ most daring adventures had been sneaking over to the castle and exploring crumbling buildings and peering in broken windows. It wasn’t until he was older that he realized the true danger they’d put themselves in. People, many of them children, had died wandering through Glenncailty Castle. For that reason it had been boarded up, and the fear of God put into the children of Cailtytown so that they wouldn’t go near it—not that it had worked.

All that had changed two years ago when Seamus O’Muircheartaigh, the owner of the castle, reopened it and started turning it into a posh hotel. The old stable had been converted into a nice venue for music and dancing, and there were rumors that the mews would become a spa.

It seemed strange to Michael that Glenncailty Castle might be anything other than an old, haunted ruin, but for the sake of those who lived in the glen he was glad. The recession had hit hard here. Most people in Glenncailty were farmers, and the fluctuating price of milk and grain had cut their incomes, threatening the whole village.

As he was about to turn left onto the road that led down into the valley, he caught sight of the car behind him, which was driving on the wrong side of the road. He honked and the car jerked into the left-hand lane. He turned off, then looked over his shoulder, a little worried about the other driver. He caught sight of a sticker from a rental company in the car window.

Maybe the parish council should put up signs reminding drivers from America and Australia which side of the road they should be on. Cailtytown had seen its share of people leave in the recessions—including the current one—so they were expecting more than a few of the diaspora to return home to their little part of Ireland for The Gathering.

Once he hit the town he waved at nearly every car he passed. Though he’d lived in Dublin since attending Trinity College, Cailtytown would always be home.

Pulling in to a little parking spot behind his family’s house, he took flowers off the seat and headed for the kitchen door.

“Ma, I’m here.” Michael shut the door, wiping his feet.

“Well, Lord love you, there you are.” Rose Baker rose from her seat at the table in the kitchen. It was comforting to see his mother, who was still young and beautiful in the eyes of her son, sitting in the same seat at the kitchen table she’d occupied all his life. “You’ll have a cup of tea, won’t you?”

“I’ll make it.” Michael’s words were brushed aside as she filled a kettle and set it boiling.

“These are for you.” He held out the thing he’d been hiding behind his back.

She accepted the flowers, turning the bouquet in her hands to admire the lilies. “And what are these for?”

“For you, because I love you.”

“Just like your father, a charmer.” She set to cutting the stems under running water and arranging them in a vase. “I’ll trust nothing you say now, as I’m sure you’re up to something.”

“Is that the thanks I get for bringing you flowers?”

“Enough out of you.” Her scolding was softened by a smile. “Do you want me to iron your shirt for the party?”

Tonight was a ceilidh—a party—to raise money for the son of a local family. The boy was in medical school and traveling to Africa to do relief work as a doctor while on holidays. As worthy as the cause was, the anticipated massive turn out had more to do with where the party was being held than its purpose. The ceilidh would take place in Finn’s Stable—the massive stone stable at Glenncailty Castle. Once a haunted ruin, it had been renovated and revamped, becoming a beautiful performance and party space. In the past months it had hosted some very high profile concerts and events. This ceilidh was the first event hosted there by someone from Cailtytown, and it was a fair bet that most of the town would be in attendance.

Michael was going with his mother, at her request, but he had to admit that he might have come back on his own, as curious to see the place as anyone else.

“I was going to wear this.”

His mother cast a critical eye over him. “That’s fine, but I’ve got a shirt for you in the hot press. Let me just give it a quick iron.”

Michael’s lips twitched as he took a seat at the table, cup of tea in hand. There was little point arguing with his mother. Though he was a grown man, certainly capable of dressing himself, he’d never been able to convince his mother of that fact. He’d stopped protesting, knowing that she liked to take care of him, and with his father gone Michael was the only one she had to take care of.

An hour later, after a light supper—to hold them over until they got there, where they’d be eating again—and a change of shirt, Michael cocked his elbow.

“Would you accompany me to a dance, fair maiden?”

His mother scoffed at him, but she was smiling as he led her out the back door to the car.

* * * *

She couldn’t sleep.

Mary rolled over and bunched her pillow under her head. She thought she’d be over her jet lag by now, but it was two in the morning and she was wide-awake. After arriving at Glenncailty Castle—she was staying in a castle!—she’d been too tired to do more than go to her room and crawl into bed. Now she was up and couldn’t get back to sleep.

Part of her wanted to explore the castle—a big, stately structure that was actually three buildings. The main wing was the largest, and according to the website there was a library and billiards room the guests could use. She was staying in the east wing, on the second floor. The main building—or at least the foyer and hallways she’d been in—had been elegant and stately. Her room was a standard hotel room, though everything was of the highest quality. Mary had been somewhat hoping she’d be staying in an old drafty room complete with stonewalls and spooky noises. Her grandmother always teased her about her “American ways” and Mary bet wanting to stay in a ruin instead of a lovely, well-appointed room was her American upbringing coming out. Irish people were famously sentimental, but practical, and a drafty room was one in need of fixing, not a suitable place to spend the night.

Luckily some sleep had eased the melancholy that had settled over her on the drive. Mary was not normally a down person. She had a great life, and loved going new places and meeting new people. Her dread of coming to the place where she’d been born had overshadowed that, her fear of what she’d feel when she got here robbing her of her normal sense of adventure.

There was a strip of silver moonlight cutting across the floor from where she hadn’t drawn the curtains all the way. Flopping onto her back she stretched, then froze. The room may not have been a derelict ruin, but she did think she’d heard something.

It was a woman’s voice, and seemed to be coming from her left. Mary turned her head, and her breath caught in her throat. A silvery mist, wavering like rippling water, floated in the corner. Mary tensed, but when she blinked it was gone.

Then it came again, a faint noise.

Music. She realized that it was music—and not haunting soft music, but a bright, happy tune. Mary sat up, laughing and shaking her head. Her imagination was running away with her. The woman’s voice must have been bits of song. Now that she’d heard it—and that her blood was pumping after she’d scared herself—she wanted to know where it was coming from.

Turning on the bedside light, she pulled on jeans and a sweater. It was a bit chilly once she was out from under the thick duvet, so she looped her sparkly scarf around her neck, and slid on her shoes. Tucking the room key—an actual key, not a plastic card—into her pocket, Mary set out in search of the music.

That seemed like as good a reason as any to get out of her room and start exploring the hotel. She planned to be there a week, plenty of time to explore all the places her grandparents wanted her to see. Plenty of time to work though her tangled feelings of regret, loss, defiance and longing.

* * * *

Mary didn’t see the figure in the hallway. Couldn’t hear the whispered words. Couldn’t feel the ghostly hand that reached out to her, passing through her shoulder as she walked down the hall toward the stairs.

* * * *

Michael picked up his fresh pint. “Slainte.” He nodded to the bartender, who was building a second Guinness. The ceilidh was over, but most of the younger crowd, and a few of the liveliest older folks, had moved from Finn’s Stable to castle pub on the first floor of the east wing. The good craic—the good times—continued even at this hour, music pumping through the speakers, people looking around as those who hadn’t been out to the pub before commented on how it had been renovated. His mother had gotten a ride home with a friend, leaving Michael to chat and drink.

Michael was impressed. Seamus had done the place up properly, and the pub was certainly big enough, with a few snugs and two separate bars for when the crowds were large like they had been earlier. Nodding to the bartender, he picked up the second drink and turned. The people at the table beside the bar were standing and gathering coats, blocking his way. Leaning back, he looked around as he waited for the crush to clear. That’s how he spotted her.

The door between the pub and hotel opened and a dark-haired woman peeked in. She was lovely, with hair straight as rain spilling across her shoulders. Her skin was lightly tanned, and though he couldn’t see their exact color, her eyes were bright, inquisitive. After a moment of looking around, she bit her lip and pulled back, the door closing.

Without questioning why, Michael slid through the crowd, pint in each hand. When he reached the door, he bumped it open with his hip. There was a small hallway on the other side, with the stairs and elevator that led to the hotel rooms on the second floor. The dark-haired woman was on the stairs, only her lower legs visible.

“You leaving already?” Michael kept the door propped open with one leg, the sounds of the pub spilling out.

The woman stopped, came back down a few steps and ducked to look at him. “Are you talking to me?”

“I am. Come back inside.”

“Oh no, I’m not…I’m just staying in the hotel. I’m not part of the party.”

“And what makes you think it’s a party?”

Her lips twitched and Michael wanted to see her smile, really smile. “There’s a banner up that says ‘Good Luck, Ed!’”

“Well fair enough to that. What if I invite you to the party?”

“Are you Ed?”

“No.”

“Do you know Ed?”

“I’d say so, but I can’t be certain. I know his family.”

“It doesn’t sound like you get to invite random people to the party.”

“Ah, sure I do. All are welcome.”

“I really shouldn’t.”

“But I already bought you a pint.” Michael held up the glass originally intended for his friend. He wasn’t sure why he was so insistent that she come down, that she join him for a glass. There was just something about her that called to him.

“You what?” She came the rest of the way down the steps. She was slim, and even prettier up close. Her eyes were gray, the light silvery gray of a spring morning.

“This is yours.” He pushed the pint at her.

“You bought me a pint?”

“I did. But I’m afraid you’ll have to come in here to drink it.” Michael smiled, coaxing her into the pub.

She laughed, the sound bubbling up through her. Her smile was perfect, as were her lips.

“Okay, thank you for the drink.” She took the pint glass from him. “I’m Mary, by the way. Mary Callahan.”

Michael nodded and ushered her in, letting his hand brush against her back. “You’re an American from the accent, but we’ve Callahans around here. I’m Michael Baker.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Michael.” She looked around the pub curiously. “My grandparents are from Cailtytown. Brenden and Emer Callahan.”

Michael blinked. He recognized those names. Cailtytown was not such a large place that those who moved away were forgotten, especially when they moved away after such sadness.

“Your parents…”

Clear silver eyes regarded him. “They were killed in a bombing in Belfast when I was a baby.”

“A shame that. I know about it. I guess you could say I know you.” Michael held his glass up and after a pause she touched hers to it. “Miss Mary Callahan, welcome back to Ireland.”

The story of her parent’s death and her grandparents’ emigration, fleeing both the Troubles and bad memories, was one of the many sad tales told in Cailtytown when the rain beat at the windows. Maybe that was why he’d been inspired to talk to her—despite her foreign accent, she belonged here.

Michael turned to face the pub, put his fingers in his mouth, and whistled. Everyone’s eyes focused on him and someone turned the music off.

“We’ve one of our own, home to us.” He gestured to Mary. “It’s Mary Callahan, granddaughter of Brenden and Emer Callahan.”

There was a beat of silence and then a cheer rose up. The few older people still in the pub stood, heading for her.

“Welcome home, Mary Callahan,” Michael whispered as old Mr. Ryan leaned in to kiss her cheek.

The pretty brunette seemed stunned. She turned as she was guided to a table. Their gazes met, held, and something shifted inside Michael. The next moment she was surrounded. He heard people welcoming her and asking after her grandparents. Michael stepped back, gave her space and returned to the table he’d been sharing with his friend.

“Michael Baker, how is it you found Mary Callahan on the way to the bar?”

“I’m a keen sort of man.” He settled down in the chair next to Liam Murray, his friend and the Glenncailty Castle handyman. Liam’s wife Kristina had left them a few hours ago as she worked the registration desk in the morning and had to be up early.

“And where’s my drink?” Liam griped.

“Ah, well, here’s the thing…”

Chapter 2

Two hours later Mary was drunk. Drunk and melancholy once more.

Getting drunk was an accident, but entirely unavoidable, considering the number of people who’d come up to her, holding out pints as they kissed her cheeks. The melancholia was a product of those same conversations. Rather than taking her time quietly exploring the town, she’d been pushed into the deep end of the pool—in a pub filled with locals, all of who seemed to know all about her family, especially her parents.

She knew her parents through photos and her grandparents’ stories, but in the past few hours she’d been told things about them she’d never heard before, and for the first time in her life she felt like she knew the people who’d given birth to her, and the place they’d come from. She reminded herself that she didn’t know these people, and even those who said they’d held her when she was a baby were strangers to her now. But midway through her first pint of ale, her reserve melted. The warm intimacy of the pub enveloped her. She was surrounded by people who welcomed her as if she were family and she began to feel it—the connection to this place that had been her home, and a connection to the parents she’d never known.

In her mind they’d always been hardworking, simple people who’d loved her, and who’d been killed while in Belfast on a rare holiday. They were like the kings and queens in Disney movies—kind but silent figures who existed as frozen snapshots. The stories she heard tonight painted a picture of a feisty woman, prone to mischief, and the solid, steady man who’d wooed and married her.

“And did you hear about their picnic? It was the talk of the town for days, poor man. You haven’t? Well then I must tell you.”

Fresh pints appeared, and Mary, who felt like Dorothy caught up in the tornado, accepted, her attention on her latest drinking companion, a man in his late sixties with kind eyes and a beard that was going gray.

“Andrew, that’s your father you know.”

“I did know that.” Mary smiled.

“Ah, sure you would. Well, Andrew was keen to take the pretty new schoolteacher out for a picnic. Siobhan, your mama, was lovely and sharp as a tack. You look like her. She was a Galway girl with that dark hair. Just like you. Though she was pale. Must be all that sun you get in America.” The man telling the story, whose name Mary had forgotten, let out a little chuckle. “It took some convincing, but finally she agreed to go on a picnic with him. And isn’t it just the way, that Andrew’s car up and died on them before they got to the picnic spot.”

He chuckled again and Mary’s lips twitched in response. She wondered if she should be upset at hearing stories about parents she’d never know, but she didn’t. She felt happy, as if his enjoyment of the story, and the memory, made it okay that the people he was talking about were dead.

“Now this was long before mobile phones, and out here we wouldn’t have things like those call boxes on the motorway you understand. With no way of calling for help, your father said he’d walk into town, but Siobhan wasn’t going to let a little thing like a busted car get in the way. She grabbed the bag of food your father had packed and dragged him into the field, insisting they still have their picnic. But your father’s troubles weren’t done yet. When they opened the bag that was supposed to have the food, they found milk bottles meant to go back to the dairy.” He took a sip of his pint, eyes sparking as he savored the telling of the tale. “Andrew had grabbed the wrong bag he had, and now they were out in the countryside, stranded and with no food.”

Mary smiled even as tears tightened her throat.

“Ah, Mary. I’ve made you cry and I didn’t mean to.” He leaned forward and patted her arm.

“Please, don’t stop. I’m not sad. I’m…I don’t know what I feel right now, but I want to hear the rest.”

He nodded as if he understood. “And it’s a good story, it is. Tells you the nature of the people. Realizing he had no food, Andrew was sure he’d made a hash of it all. He was meant to be wooing your mother, but after a day like this he was sure he’d never convince the pretty Siobhan to marry him. He started walking back to town, but still Siobhan wasn’t put off. She led them through fields until they came to a barn, where she begged the farmer for help. They ended up being taken in by the farmer’s wife and fed lunch, tea and tart. Even after they’d called to let everyone know where they were they stayed, talking and laughing. Finally the farmer gave your mother a ride home while Andrew went and waited with the car until Brenden could tow him home. They married two months later.”

Mary loved the picture the story painted of her quiet father trying so hard and seemingly failing to impress her mother, only to have Siobhan brush aside each setback and turn it into an adventure. It made sense that her grandparents—her father’s parents—would talk more about them as the quiet, hardworking couple they’d been once they’d married and gone to work in her grandfather’s furniture shop. She’d heard very little about them before they got married, back when her mother was a teacher.

“Thank you for that memory.” Mary blinked tears from her eyes.

The man hugged her, and Mary hugged him back, a few tears escaping before she could stop them.

“Ah, you’re very welcome, Mary Callahan. And you’re very welcome here, home to Ireland. You’ve been missed.”

Mary smiled, her lips trembling with emotion. When her companion wandered away, she looked around to see that the pub’s crowd had thinned. It had to be four in the morning, long past the time that an American bar would have closed, but there were still a few people about. The bar was no longer serving, but that didn’t stop the conversation from flowing.

Two women entered, trailed closely by a man. One of the women—a red head—wore a black jacket and a small gold nametag. Mary looked around for her purse, sure that the hotel staff had come to throw them out. It took her a moment before she remembered that she didn’t have a purse.

“Ah, give us a song, Caera me love, before you run off with that American.” Someone at the front of the room was talking to the gorgeous dark-haired woman who’d entered. She looked at her companion, who held an instrument case.

“I’m game if you are.” The man had just a hint of a Boston accent. Hearing another American sent a pang of homesickness through her.

“How are you doing, Mary Callahan?” Michael was at her side, taking a seat at the bar stool next to her.

“I’m…” Her words trailed off, because she didn’t know what to say. She was both happy and terribly sad. “I don’t know how I am.”

“A lot to take in?”

“You know, before I came downstairs, I was just thinking about how I was going to take my time exploring this place, ease into the idea that this is where I’m from.”

Michael winced. “Well I went and banjaxed that, didn’t I?”

“Banjaxed? I thought my grandfather was the only person who said that.”

“Ah no, it’s a deadly useful word.” He smiled only to frown a moment later. “I’m truly sorry that I upset your plans. I didn’t think.”

“Don’t be. This is good.” Mary looked around the dwindling crowd, many of whom had moved toward the far side where the man from Boston was tuning a violin. “My parents…these people knew my parents.”

“And did you not know anything about them?”

“I did, from my grandparents, but it’s different, hearing it from their friends.”

“They weren’t forgotten, nor were you. Glenncailty still mourns their death.”

Fresh tears filled her eyes. She blinked and one slid down her cheek.

“Ah now, pretty Mary, I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“I’m sorry.” She let out a watery laugh and wiped her eyes. “I don’t mean to cry, because I’m happy to hear the stories. Happy to know they’re remembered in their hometown.”

His next comment was forestalled by the first notes of a song. The dark-haired woman who’d come in not long ago was smiling at the fiddle player. He swayed side to side, drawing out one long note as the woman started singing. Mary’s breath caught as a lovely ballad swept through the room. She didn’t recognize it, but it was beautiful. A story of love lost, love longed for.

A warm arm came around her shoulders. She looked over to Michael, who was leaning against the bar, his arm around her shoulders, pulling her against his side. He was good looking, handsome even, but not in the polished way she was used to. His hair was that color between brown and blond. In the dim lights of the pub it looked brown, but she suspected that in the sun it would be gold. He was probably about her age—thirty—and had just a few lines at the corners of his eyes.

It was strange to have this man she’d just met touching her, hugging her, and yet it was far from the first hug from a stranger she’d experienced that night. Stranger still was the fact that this didn’t really feel all that strange.

They stood together, Michael warm and strong at her side, as the music flowed around them.

*

Michael reminded himself that he was a good man. Not the kind of man who would seduce a woman who’d just been through what must have been a trying night. Maybe it had been too long since he’d been with someone—and it had been a long time—but Michael couldn’t stop himself from fantasizing about pulling Mary into his arms and kissing her. Maybe it was the pints, maybe it was the music or the air of melancholy that had fallen over the place once the residents of Cailtytown started thinking about the Callahans’ death and the loss of the baby who was now a beautiful woman, but Michael found himself longing for things he normally tried not to think about.

Caera Cassidy, the events manager who handled Finn’s Stable, sang three songs with her new American boyfriend, who was an accomplished musician and performer. The rumor was that she was taking a career break to go on tour with him in America. When the couple were done and the last notes faded to silence, Mary leaned into his shoulder, soft and warm. Her hair smelled like shampoo, a clean scent that shouldn’t have affected him the way it did.

As she tucked herself against his side, Michael gritted his teeth. Every fiber of his being wanted to take Mary back to her room, strip her clothes from her and make love to her until the sun rose. He wanted to touch her, taste her and figure out what it was about her that drew him to her. He wanted to, but he wouldn’t.

Calling himself a fool, he eased her away from him. “You’ve had quite the night, haven’t you, pretty Mary?”

She nodded, eyes watery once more.

“Can I walk you to your room?”

Her gaze searched his face. “If you hadn’t made me come in here, I might never have met all these people and heard the stories about my parents.”

“Then I’ll apologize again, and also say I’m glad I did it. Come on, I’ll make sure you get there.”

Michael guided her out of the pub. They took the elevator rather than the stairs and he walked her down the hall to her door. She fished the key from her pocket then froze, looking at something just over his shoulder. Michael turned and saw a small flash of light, as if someone were moving a mirror in sunlight.

“I thought I…” Mary shook her head. “I think I’m well and truly overwhelmed, to the point I’m seeing things.”

Michael scanned the hall, examining the corners and what shadows there were in the well-lit, carpeted hallway. When Mary had her door opened, he faced her.

“It was nice to meet you.” The words seemed inadequate, but he didn’t know what else to say.

“Thank you, for everything. Hearing about them means more than you’ll ever know. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming.”

“Ireland is your home.”

She smiled, leaning her head against the doorframe. “No. Chicago is home, but Ireland is…something.”

They stared at each other, neither seeming willing to bring this strange epic night to an end. It felt like they’d known each other forever, like two magnets that had been held apart finally snapping together.

“Mary?”

“Yes?” She tipped her head, looking at him through her lashes. Her lips were pink and soft, parted just a bit.

Michael cursed mentally, trying to think of anything but how much he wanted to kiss her. “Would you like to have tea tomorrow, with my mother?”

“Your mother?”

“I think she knew your parents, and if she didn’t know them personally she’d be able to help you look at records.”

“Oh, thank you. I would like that.”

“Would tomorrow, or later today as it seems, around two o’clock work?”

“Yes. Can you write down the address?”

“I’ll come and collect you just before two.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Michael didn’t kiss her, but he touched her cheek with one finger. “Goodnight, Mary.”

“Goodnight, Michael.”

~

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