Michael Warner is twenty-eight years old. One of four siblings, he and his elder brother, Liam, are the only two who lived to adulthood. He was born and brought up on a large farm and, like Liam, Michael was well educated. He can read and write in both Irish and English.
Michael and Liam have lived in a cottage outside the village of Doon for just over a year where they rent and farm fifteen acres of good land. Although Liam helps him at the busiest times of the year – saving the hay and the turf (peat) – Michael does the bulk of the farm work himself. But why did Michael choose to be a farmer in the first place? With his education, Michael could have had the choice of many careers.
Any newcomer to an area invites comment whether they like it or not, and it isn’t long before the people of Doon begin to ask questions about the parish’s ‘mystery man’. Why did Michael come with his brother to live and farm in a remote, rural, and mountainous parish? Why don’t the brothers take lodgings or employ a housekeeper? Why has Michael stayed out out of the faction fights which have divided the parish? Why is Liam so against Michael courting Caitriona Brady, the young widow of John Brady, the Brady champion killed in a faction fight two years ago. And how long will it be before these questions are answered and become public knowledge?
Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.
Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?
“Oh, stop.” Michael grabbed Caitriona’s hand and pulled her away from the dancers. “I’m fit to drop.”
The two of them sank down on the flat rock, fighting for breath, and Michael couldn’t help but stare at her. Caitriona’s blue eyes were shining, her face was flushed, and curls were blowing about her face and neck. She was so beautiful and he wasn’t going to wait a moment longer.
Taking her hand again, he led her away from the crowds, the music, and the dancers. They walked until they entered some trees and were out of sight then stopped.
Her expression was so solemn that his heart began to pound even more. He had tugged at his collar in the dance and it and his cravat were slightly askew. His long coat hung open and his hat was pushed to the back of his head. He knew he looked a mess but when would he get her alone again?
“I love you,” he told her, letting go of her hand, and waiting for a reply.
She seemed stunned at this sudden revelation and began to pull awkwardly at the skirt of her black dress. She then raised her eyes to his.
“I’m glad,” she whispered. “Because I love you, too.”
He was so shocked his mouth fell open and he gaped stupidly at her before roaring with delighted laughter. “Oh, thank God.” He laughed again. “Thank God.”
“I don’t know if He has much to do with it.” She laughed, too. “But thank Him if you must.”
“Thank you, then,” he whispered and kissed her.
He had never kissed any woman in the way he did now and surprised himself. Her hands were in his hair, pulling his face towards hers. His hands were on her back, pulling her body against his. His tongue left her mouth and began to blaze a trail down her neck to her cleavage. He was licking the hollow between her breasts, her hands still in his hair, when he felt her tense. When she froze, he quickly raised his head, feeling his cheeks burn. He had gone too far.
“I’m sorry—” he began but she covered his mouth with her fingers.
“Listen,” she whispered and he straightened up. Shouts and cries were drifting up to them on the breeze. “Oh, no. A fight’s about to begin and they’re not even drunk yet, there hasn’t been time.”
“Liam’s still down there,” Michael told her as she righted her dress. “I hope he’s had the sense to walk away and not try to break it up.”
He clasped her hand and picked up his hat, which had fallen to the ground, and led her out of the trees.
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