Forever Mine: Callaghan Brothers, Book 9

BOOK: Forever Mine: Callaghan Brothers, Book 9
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Forever Mine

Callaghan Brothers, Volume 9

Abbie Zanders

Published by Abbie Zanders, 2016.

This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.


First edition. April 15, 2016.

Copyright © 2016 Abbie Zanders.

Written by Abbie Zanders.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Forever Mine (Callaghan Brothers, #9)


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Some Personal Notes

If you liked this book...

About the Author

Also by Abbie Zanders

Excerpt from Sweet Agony

Excerpt from The Edge of Courage (Red Team, Book 1)

Excerpt from My Name Is Desire: The Bad Baker Boys: Mark's Story

Forever Mine

Callaghan Brothers, Book 9


over design by Mina Carter,

Cover model: Steven Vallis

Professional editing by the incomparable M. E. Weglarz of, a woman with a true gift for spotting plot holes, character anomalies, black holes, and other potential WTFs. Thank you, Meg, from the bottom of my heart.

Special thanks to authors Tonya Brooks and Jessie Lane for their invaluable insights and advice.

And special thanks to some very special ladies – Anjee Z., Carol T., Deb B., Perryne D., Jessie L., Tonya B., Heather J., and Shelly S. (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) - for reading the first draft and providing such wonderful feedback. This is a better story because of them!

... and THANK YOU to all of
for selecting this book. You didn’t have to, but you did.

Chapter One

eptember 2015

Pine Ridge

“Some fresh-baked apple pie, Dad?” Maggie asked, bustling toward him with yet another plate held between hot pads.

Jack Callaghan smiled at his daughter-in-law. The picnic table at which he sat, like the other three lined up beside it, was already groaning under the weight of food she and the others had prepared. Maggie’s two hundred acre farm was the perfect place for a family get-together, especially on such a fine autumn day. Blue skies stretched limitlessly above; the air was pleasantly warm with hardly a trace of humidity.

“Perhaps later, lass.”

Maggie put the pie down and focused her attention on him. “Are you feeling all right?”

He chuckled. Maggie was so like his Kathleen, always mothering. She was well aware that apple pie was his favorite, and knowing her, had made it specifically with him in mind. He could smell the extra brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter he loved so much wafting his way in the light breeze. It smelled wonderful, but his normally hearty appetite was lacking.

“Aye, just ate too much. It needs time to settle before I can give that pie the reverence it deserves.”

She smiled, but her eyes crinkled in concern. “Ate too much? You’ve hardly eaten anything. What’s going on, Dad?”

The woman had the eyes of a hawk. Nothing slipped by her. “Nothing, Maggie. Stop worrying.”

“You look a little pale,” she persisted. “Have you talked to Michael?”

“No, because there’s nothing to talk about,” he snapped, his discomfort adding an edge to his voice that wasn’t usually there. The brief look of hurt in her eyes made him feel even worse. “It’s just a bit of indigestion, lass.”

Her features relaxed. “Oh, why didn’t you say so? I can make you some soothing tea.”

He didn’t really want tea, but with Maggie, Jack had learned it was often best to take the path of least resistance in small matters. “If it’s not too much trouble, that would be lovely, lass, thank you.”

She beamed at him, all traces of hurt gone. Yes, she was just like his Kathleen, happiest when she was doing something for someone else.

“No trouble. I’ll be right back. In the meantime, here.” She reached into her pocket and handed him a piece of chewing gum. “This might help.”

He thanked her again and accepted the gum. Maggie scurried back into the house to make his tea. He pulled out his handkerchief and discreetly wiped the sweat from his brow. The truth was, he wasn’t feeling all that well. Hadn’t been for the past few days.

Had he not promised Riley he’d help her find the biggest pumpkin in the fields before her siblings and cousins, he probably would have found some excuse to remain in his room at the Pub, reclining in his favorite chair and watching college football. But she was his first granddaughter, and when she looked up at him with those big violet eyes, he couldn’t say no.

Reminded of his task, he’d better get on with it. The sooner he did, the sooner he could return to the Pub, take some antacids, and relax in the comfort and privacy of his own home. He loved his sons, his daughters-in-law, and his brood of spirited grandchildren, but feeling as he did, a bit of peace and quiet was what he needed.

Jack got up, steeling himself against the vague dizziness that had been plaguing him off and on. He gripped the edge of the table, thankful that Maggie had gone into the house and everyone else was otherwise occupied.

“You okay, Dad?”

Except, apparently, Taryn, who had appeared out of nowhere, he thought irritably. Could he not have a few minutes where someone wasn’t badgering him? He was sixty-five years old, not six.

“Don’t sneak up on me like that!” he chastised. “Of course I am.”

Taryn crossed her arms and looked pointedly down at his hand. She was fierce, that one, a perfect match for the bulldozing personality of his son, Jake. Where Maggie had Kathleen’s mothering instincts, Taryn had her bullshite detector. “Yeah?”

“Aye. My knee is stiff. Been sitting too long.”

She narrowed her eyes. “That’s all?”

“Isn’t that enough?” he shot back. He loved his daughters-in-law as his own, but they could be a meddlesome lot.

“If it’s bothering you, you don’t have to take Riley all the way down to the pumpkin patch. Jake or I can do it.”

“I promised the lass. I’ll not break my promise,” he told her stubbornly.

“Well, at least let me get the Jeep. I can drive you down.”

“I am perfectly capable of walking my granddaughter to the pumpkin patch and back.”

Taryn looked doubtful, but she nodded with obvious reluctance. “Ok. I’ll go with you.”

“Now you’re just being insulting, lass.”

“I didn’t mean...”

“I know what you meant. Your time is better spent going after Rory, Ryan, and Patrick. I saw them sneaking off toward the creek.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” she exclaimed. “They know they’re not supposed to be down there by themselves.”

“Lads will be lads.”

He hated to throw his grandsons under the bus like that, but it was preferable to being hovered over like some sickly old man. “Go on then. Off with you. Best you get to them before they start flipping rocks and catching snakes.”

“They wouldn’t!”

He chuckled as Taryn took off toward the creek, then started coughing when his chest tightened. He sat back down and tried to contain it before he had the rest of his daughters-in-law fussing over him. He just needed some rest; that was all. He hadn’t been sleeping well. The little bit he was managing had been riddled with realistic dreams of Kathleen lately. That in itself wasn’t unusual; he often dreamt about his
, about her smile, her laugh. The most recent ones left him unsettled, though. The look in her beautiful emerald eyes was the same one she used to give him when she was particularly worried about something, usually when one of their kids or grandkids was having a rough time of it.

He kept those dreams to himself, for obvious reasons. First, they were too personal, and second, he didn’t need anyone questioning his mental state along with his physical health.

There were those who would say that it was his subconscious manifesting his Kathleen during those difficult times, but he knew better. The bond between
couldn’t be broken by something as simple as death, and death wasn’t the end. The only reason he’d been able to go on was because she was always with him -—in his heart, and in his dreams.

“Are you ready, Grandpa?” Riley asked excitedly, running headlong across the lawn.

“I am, love.”

He took her small hand in his, smiling down at her. She was such a spirited, loving child. He got a familiar ache in his chest, thinking how much Kathleen would have doted on her and the rest of their grandchildren. He missed his wife so
. Not a day, not an hour went by when he didn’t wish he could hold her in his arms again, feel her body pressed against his during the night, hear her beautiful laugh. Seeing their seven sons married and with families of their own warmed his heart, but was a constant reminder of what he’d once had and lost.

They walked down the hill to the ten-acre patch Maggie sowed with gourds every year. In a week or so, the elementary schools would be bussing up the kids for field trips. They’d take hayrides and pick apples and pumpkins; play on the hay-bale obstacle course and laugh their way through the corn maze digitally designed by his high-tech savvy son, Ian. But this weekend was just for family.

His dizziness faded, but the heavy feeling grew as Riley skipped through the patch, determined in her quest to find the perfect pumpkin before her siblings or cousins. Jack pulled out his handkerchief and wiped at the sweat once again beading along his forehead. It was an effort to lift his arm to do so; it felt weak, and slightly numb.

Maybe he was coming down with something. He swayed on his feet, the vertigo returning once again as he stood under the late-September sun. If he could just sit down for a few minutes in the shade, catch his breath, it would pass like it had before.

“Take your time, Riley,” he called out. “I’ll just be over here.”

“Okay, Grandpa,” she answered cheerfully.

It took more concentration than it should have to make it to the line of maple trees delineating the field from the others. By the time he reached the shade, he felt as weak as a pup. He dropped down onto the grass and tried to take a deep breath.

He couldn’t. It felt like an elephant was sitting on his chest, keeping him from expanding his lungs properly. A sense of doom settled heavily on his shoulders. Realization dawned as the first searing pain shot through his chest and down his left arm. He closed his eyes and prayed. “No, not now, not in front of the lass...”

Chapter Two

aggie came out of the house with a steaming mug of gingerroot tea to find a few of her sisters-in-law sitting at the picnic table, watching their husbands in what had to be the roughest game of dodgeball ever. When these men “played” against one another, it was serious business. All former SEALs, the brothers had their own off-the-books special ops team and kept themselves in peak condition. Regardless of the game, there was sure to be lots of painful, physical contact as the brothers tried to best each other.

A brief scan assured her that their cheering, wide-eyed children weren’t in the fall-out zone; they watched from the safety of the large, multi-leveled tree house their fathers had spent several weekends building. Complete with shingled-roofs, safety-glassed windows, and furniture, it was a favorite spot among the kids (some of them bigger than others).

Jack, however, was nowhere to be found.

“Now where did that stubborn man get to?” she asked no one in particular.

“Which stubborn man would you be referring to?” Lexi asked, laughing. “It could apply to any male here.” A round of knowing, agreeing chuckles followed.

“True enough,” Maggie grinned, “but I was talking about Dad.”

“I saw him heading down to the pumpkin patch with Riley a little while ago,” Nicki volunteered. “Why?”

“He said he wasn’t feeling well. I made him some tea.”

“You know, I didn’t want to say anything, but he didn’t look so good earlier,” noted Lacie quietly.

“I noticed the same thing,” admitted Rebecca, lowering her voice as she leaned forward. “Any idea what’s wrong?”

BOOK: Forever Mine: Callaghan Brothers, Book 9
4.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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