Forever Mine:Callaghan Brothers, Book 9

By: Abbie Zanders

Callaghan Brothers, Volume 9



Acknowledgements


Cover design by Mina Carter, www.mina-carter.com

Cover model: Steven Vallis

Professional editing by the incomparable M. E. Weglarz of megedits.com, 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 you for selecting this book. You didn’t have to, but you did.





Chapter One


September 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.

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