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Authors: Barbara Longley

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BOOK: Heart of the Druid Laird
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“A chance at what?” She gave her friend a skeptical look. “He’s a man on a mission, and he won’t tell me…Zoe?”

“What?”

“You know something, don’t you?” She watched her squirm.

“I don’t know anything.” Zoe’s eyes remained fixed on the table. “Why would you think I do?”

“Well, duh, because of Thomas.”

“You think we spend all of our time talking about you and Dermot? Think again.” She raised an eyebrow. “You’re leaving me to deal with this. Dermot is going to come into Panache à Trois, and I’m going to have to tell him you’re not there.” She frowned. “By the way, where will you be?”

“Not at Panache.”

“You’re not going to tell me?” She sounded stunned.

“Tit-for-tat.”

“I don’t know anything,” she grumbled.

“Sure you don’t.”

“I can deal with Dermot if you want me to,” David offered.

“Do.”

“Good idea.” Sidney answered at the same time Zoe did.

Chapter Five

The moment Dermot walked into Panache à Trois, he sensed Sidney’s absence. A myriad of emotions ran through him—anger, uncertainty, disappointment. Now what? He knew he’d been pushing her, but dammit, the anniversary of Mairéad’s murder was only sixteen days away. He watched her brother approach. “Where is Sidney?”

“She had some personal business to take care of. She’s not coming in today.”

Dermot’s body tensed. What if she was with another man? The thought of someone else near her had him seeing red. No. He forced himself to relax. She’d indicated she wasn’t involved with anyone. “Where is she?” He tried to catch David’s eye. He’d compel him to reveal Sidney’s whereabouts if necessary.

“I can’t say.” David refused to meet his gaze.

Dermot ran a hand over the lower half of his face and searched the store as if he might still find her there. Gods, the disappointment ate at him. He felt foolish, like a boy in the throes of his first crush. “You canna, or
will
no’ say?”

“She declined your invitation to lunch today. She’s declined all of your invitations.
Canna
and
will no’
are moot.” David gave him a sympathetic look. “Sorry. I think Sidney’s made herself pretty clear.”

Dermot’s fists clenched at his sides. Since his arrival, he’d had to deal with things completely out of his realm and out of his control. He didn’t like the helplessness knotting his stomach. Gods, he missed his quiet, orderly stillroom. “When will she return?”

“Don’t send our customers away like you did before,” Zoe whispered urgently behind him. “Sidney wouldn’t like it, and neither would I.”

Dermot spun around to glare at Zoe. Thomas stood behind her. “What have you told her, Thomas?”

“What I tell Zoe is none of your business.”

“Ah, but it is.” He took a step toward him, and the urge to throttle his cousin tested his resolve.

“Zoe has a right to know.” Thomas met his glare with one of his own and took a step forward. “Do you no’ recognize her, Druid?”

Dermot studied the petite blonde. “I do, and it makes no difference. What are you playing at here? She canna help us. You had no right to tell her anything without checking with me first.”

“This involves her.”

“As usual, you have no’ thought this through.” Dermot turned to Zoe. “You’ve talked to Sidney haven’t you? That’s why she’s no’ here.”

“Nuh-uh,” Zoe protested. “I haven’t said a thing. Thomas made me swear.”

Dermot leaned toward her, staring deep into the pool of her soul through her eyes. He placed his hand on her shoulder and altered the vibrational pitch of his voice. “You will tell me where she is.”

“I…I don’t know where Sidney is. She wouldn’t say.”

“Dammit.” Thomas shoved him away. “Do no’ use your Druidy hocus-pocus on Zoe.”

Fuming, Dermot scowled at his cousin while directing his comment to Zoe. “Has Thomas told you what will happen in the end, lass?”

“What end? The end of the story?”

“Nay.” Leaning close so no one else would hear, Dermot whispered. “The end of the curse.”

“No.” Zoe’s eyes flew to Thomas. “What happens in the end?”

His cousin’s body tensed. It gave Dermot a moment’s satisfaction before the hollow ache took over. He wanted Sidney. The need to find her overwhelmed him.

“Sod off, Dermot.” Thomas took Zoe’s hand and started to lead her out of the store.

“Have you given any thought about what will happen should Sidney flee, Thomas?”

His cousin stopped and raked a hand through his hair. He shot Dermot a baleful glance before continuing on his way, Zoe in tow.

“Why do I feel like there’s a story here?” David wondered aloud beside him.

“Because there is.” Dermot turned to him. “I need to find your sister. Where is she?”

“Sorry, man.” David shrugged. “She really didn’t say where she’d be. Even if she had, she’s my sister. I look out for her.”

“Admirable. I canna fault you for wanting to protect her.” What else could he say?
I need her to lift a curse I’ve been under for sixteen and a half centuries? Oh, yes, and I can hardly walk because of the hard-on I’ve had since first laying eyes on her.
Dermot reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a business card. “Here’s a number where I can be reached. Please ask your sister to call me.”

“You know she won’t.”

“I don’t suppose you’d give me her number?”

“No.” David shook his head. “It wouldn’t do you any good anyway. She won’t answer an unfamiliar number.”

“I thought as much.” Dermot took a deep breath to calm himself. “I mean her no harm, David. I hope you believe me.”

“I can’t say what I believe. I don’t have any idea what this is about. Whatever it is, it’s causing Sidney to lose sleep, and that bugs me.”

Losing sleep? Could it be memories of their past life together were awakening within her? If so, her anger might prevent her from helping him. Perhaps that was why she’d taken so long to be reborn. She couldn’t forgive him. Or…could desire be the cause of her lack of sleep? Gods knew he suffered.

Dermot nodded, his mind already on his search. He knew where she lived. Perhaps he could catch her coming or going. If not, he had other means at his disposal. More akin to a stalking she’d said. So be it. Matters couldn’t get much worse, and he needed to do something to escape the horrible emptiness filling him.

 

Thomas worried about where Zoe’s thoughts were taking her. She walked stiffly down the sidewalk beside him. “I’ve rented a car, love, and I moved out of the suite I shared with the others.” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “I have a private room now.”

“What happens at the end, Thomas?” Her voice quivered.

“Och, we’ve no’ yet gotten to the middle.” Thomas reached for her hand only to have her yank it from his grasp. “Where did we leave off?”

“What happens at the end? Is Sidney in danger?”

“Ah, I recall. When last we spoke, Mairéad had agreed to forfeit immortality to marry Dermot.”

Zoe stopped dead in her tracks at his words.

“We’re about to have our first fight, aren’t we,
leannan?

“Yes, we are. You haven’t answered my question. I’m not taking another step anywhere with you until you do.”

Thomas fidgeted. He wasn’t ready with an answer. Zoe glared up at him with her blue eyes shooting sparks and her hands on her hips. Exasperated, he let all the air out of his lungs and stared at the sky. “No one knows. We’ve been arguing the point for more than sixteen hundred years.”

“Well, what are the possibilities?”

“Zoe, can we no’ finish the tale and
then
discuss the possible endings?”

“No.”

“Stubborn wench.”

“Mule-headed man.”

“Do we get to have make-up sex tonight?” She didn’t answer. Not a good sign. “Och, lass. Dermot believes the minute the curse is lifted, time will catch us up. We’ll disintegrate into sixteen-hundred-year-old dust.”

Zoe hauled her fist back and slugged him hard in the biceps.

“Oy.” Thomas rubbed the spot where his sweet little woman had punched him. “There’s no need for violence.”

“I can’t believe you were going to let us just ‘take up where we left off’ knowing full well I’m going to lose you in the end.” Zoe slugged him again. “What was all that
there’s no life for me without you
bullshit?”

“Zoe.” Thomas wrapped his arms around her. “Disintegration is what Dermot believes will happen. It’s no’ what I think. Remember, Mairéad gave up her immortality to be with Dermot. She didn’t disintegrate. We were cursed with immortality. The logical end to the curse is mortality. Mairéad’s mother has never said what will happen once it’s lifted. She’s always refused to say.” He rested his chin on the top of her head. “I’ve always wondered about that. I think her refusal to say is another way to torture us.”

“You’re going off on a tangent again,” Zoe mumbled into his chest. “Mairéad gave up her immortality to marry Dermot. So what? Was she sixteen hundred years old? For all you know, she could’ve been in her teens or early twenties at the time.”

“I doubt it.” Thomas rubbed her back. “The tale of her mortal father had been around forever by the time we met her. She must have lived at least a hundred years or more.”

“You said you don’t believe the
Tuatha Dé Danann
are born immortal. You don’t really know though, do you? Maybe choosing mortality affects them differently than it does humans.” She raised her head to glare at him. “I’m going to be so pissed off if you disintegrate.” Zoe grabbed the collar of his jacket with both hands and gave him a shake. “I’ll
never
forgive you.”

His heart melted. They’d only been reunited for a few days, and already she cared. “I promise I will no’ leave you, love. If Dermot is proved right, I’ll remain cursed is all.” Thomas cupped her face in his hands. “I’ll no’ give up my chance at a life with you. I swear it.” He kissed her, and the brief contact electrified his entire body. “Did I mention I have my own room at the hotel?”

Zoe giggled. “You did mention it, yes.” She stepped out of his arms. “I don’t know what to make of this. How can I feel so much for you already? We’ve only been together for a few days, yet the thought of losing you sends me into major panic mode.”

“A powerful love like ours transcends time. We were meant to grow old together, to share our sorrows and joys and our defeats and triumphs. I love you as much now as I did sixteen hundred years ago. You were taken from me. Now you are returned. Nothing will keep us apart. Nothing.”

“Oh, Thomas.” Zoe’s body melted against his, and her arms encircled his waist. “What if you’re wrong? What if you have no choice?”

 

Sidney loved Sundays. She was always in a rush when she worked out during the week. On Sundays she could take her time. With the shop closed for the day she allowed herself to stop worrying about money and her fledgling business. Maybe she’d even indulge in a sauna and whirlpool.

She stood on the treadmill and dialed through her playlists until she came to Ben Harper’s
Both Sides of the Gun.
Her mind strayed to Dermot. Despite her best efforts not to think about him, he’d been in her thoughts every waking minute.

What would it be like to be involved with him? She loved the way he opened doors for her. He’d encouraged her to open up about her fears and really listened when she did. When he’d put his arm around her shoulders, all she wanted to do was snuggle into his protective warmth.

How had he taken her absence at the store yesterday? Neither David nor Zoe had much to say about it. Had he gotten the message? Would he give up and leave her alone?

Did she want him to give up? That’s crazy talking. Of course she did. A man
like
him would be great, but Dermot came with too much weirdness attached.

Something inside her wrenched at the thought of never seeing him again. What was it about the man that caused her to feel things she shouldn’t? It made no sense. She knew nothing about him or his character. Forcing herself to stop thinking about him, she put the earbuds in and pushed Play.

“Is that one of those wee music contraptions?” a deep voice with a heavy Scottish brogue inquired behind her.

“You.” Her whole body jerked, and her pulse flew off the charts. Had thinking about Dermot conjured him? “What are you doing here?”

“Same as you.” He shrugged. “Working out.”

She looked him over and rolled her eyes. “In jeans and a sport coat? Right. You couldn’t possibly be a member.”

“I am.” Dermot dangled his temporary membership card in front of her face.

“You followed me here.”

“Perhaps. Let me see your wee toy.” He took the iPod.

She snatched it back. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you any manners?”

He took the iPod from her hands again. “My mother never taught me anything. She died the day I was born.”

Sidney’s stomach clenched—compassion warred with her determination not to get sucked in. “I’m sorry to hear it.” She took the earbuds out and let them dangle from her confiscated iPod. She started the treadmill and tried to ignore him. Dermot was a large man. It wasn’t easy to do.

“I never knew her. How can one regret the loss of someone they never knew?”

“I’m sorry for your lack, then. Really.”

“My wife was the only one who ever tried to teach me manners.”

Don’t ask. Do not encourage him.
She couldn’t help herself. “Was?”

“Aye. She was murdered on my twenty-fourth birthday.”

“Oh.” Her heart hurt. He’d managed to get to her with another outrageous story about his dismal life. Given away at birth, never had a mother, and now this. Was any of it true? Maybe she’d arrange to have a little time with Thomas to find out. Wait. Why would Thomas be any more honest than his boss?

“You needn’t vex yourself. Her death was avenged a long time ago.”

Avenged?
Goose bumps rose on her skin at his words. She didn’t want to know what kind of vengeance he meant. “How long ago did this happen?”

“More years than I care to count.” Dermot studied her iPod. “She was pregnant with our first child and almost to term when it happened.”

Sidney tried to read the expression on his face and couldn’t. His words made her feel like weeping. “Here.” She stopped the treadmill, caught the dangling earbuds and thrust them into his hand. “What kind of music do you like?” If her iPod would get him to shut up and leave her alone, it was worth the sacrifice.

“You pick something for me.”

Her hands brushed his as she reached for the iPod. Electric heat surged through her at the contact. She started the playlist already selected as he put the buds in his ears. Starting the treadmill again, Sidney began her warm-up walk. Dermot’s gaze remained fixed on her, even though she refused to look in his direction. He didn’t leave. “Did you come here to exercise or to stare at me?”

“I came to exercise.” Dermot hopped onto the treadmill behind her and reached around to turn it off. “Staring at you is an added perk.” He moved so close she could feel the heat radiating from his body. He placed one of the earbuds back in her ear so they shared the music. “Like the song says, I’ve been waiting for you,” he whispered into her ear and caged her in with his arms.

BOOK: Heart of the Druid Laird
6.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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