Home > Newest Books > An Unexpected Pleasure (The Mad Morelands #4)

An Unexpected Pleasure (The Mad Morelands #4)
Author:Candace Camp

An Unexpected Pleasure (The Mad Morelands #4)

Candace Camp




PROLOGUE





New York, 1879

The shriek cut through the night.

In her bed, Megan Mulcahey sat straight up, instantly awake, her heart pounding. It took her a moment to realize what had awakened her. Then she heard her sister’s voice again.

“No. No!”

Megan was out of her bed in a flash and running through the door. Theirs was not a large home—a narrow brownstone row house with three bedrooms upstairs—and it took only a moment to reach Deirdre’s door and fling it open.

Deirdre was sitting up in bed, her eyes wide and staring, horrified. Her arms stretched out in front of her toward something only she could see, and tears pooled in her eyes before rolling down her cheeks.

“Deirdre!” Megan crossed the room and sat down on her sister’s bed, taking Deirdre’s shoulders firmly in her hands. “What is it? Wake up! Deirdre!”

She gave the girl a shake, and something changed in her sister’s face, the frightening blankness slipping away, replaced by a dawning consciousness.

“Megan!” Deirdre let out a sob and threw her arms around her older sister. “Oh, Megan. It was terrible. Terrible!”

“Saints preserve us!” Their father’s voice sounded from the doorway. “What in the name of all that’s holy is going on?”

“Deirdre had a bad dream, that’s all,” Megan replied, keeping her voice calm and soothing, as she stroked her sister’s hair. “Isn’t that right, Dee? It was nothing but a nightmare.”

“No.” Deirdre gulped and pulled back from Megan a little, wiping the tears from her cheeks and looking first at Megan, then at their father. Her eyes were still wide and shadowed. “Megan. Da. I saw Dennis!”

“You dreamed about Dennis?” Megan asked.

“It wasn’t a dream,” Deirdre responded. “Dennis was here. He spoke to me.”

A shiver ran down Megan’s spine. “But, Dee, you couldn’t have seen him. Dennis has been dead for ten years.”

“It was him,” Deirdre insisted. “I saw him, plain as day. He spoke to me.”

Their father crossed the room eagerly and went down on one knee before his daughter, looking into her face. “Are you sure, then, Deirdre? It was really Denny?”

“Yes. Oh, yes. He looked like he did the day he sailed away.”

Megan stared at her sister, stunned. Deirdre had a reputation in the family for having the second sight. She was given to forebodings and premonitions—too many of which had turned out to be true for Megan to completely dismiss her sister’s “ability.” However, her predictions usually ran more to having a feeling that a certain friend or relative was having problems or was likely to drop in on them that day. The more pragmatic side of Megan believed that her sister simply possessed a certain sensitivity that enabled her to pick up on a number of small clues about people and situations that most others ignored. It was an admirable talent, Megan agreed, but she had her doubts whether it was the otherworldly gift that many deemed it.

Deirdre’s looks, she thought, contributed a great deal to the common perception of her. Small and fragile in build, with large, gentle blue eyes, pale skin and light strawberry-blond hair, there was a fey quality to her, a sense of otherworldliness, that aroused most people’s feelings of protectiveness, including Megan’s, and made it easy to believe that the girl was in tune with the other world.

But never before had Deirdre claimed to have seen someone who was dead. Megan was not sure what to think. On the one hand, her practical mind had trouble accepting that her brother’s spirit was walking about, talking to her sister. It seemed much more likely that Deirdre had had a nightmare that her sleep-befuddled mind had imagined was real. On the other hand, there was a small superstitious something deep inside her that wondered if this could possibly be true. The truth was, she knew, that like her father, she wanted it to be true—she hoped that her beloved brother was still around in some form, not lost to her forever.

“What did he say?” Frank Mulcahey asked. “Why did he come to you?”

Deirdre’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh, Da, it was awful! Dennis was scared and desperate. ‘Help me,’ he said, and held out his hands to me. ‘Please help me.’”

Frank Mulcahey sucked in his breath sharply and made a rapid sign of the cross. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What did he mean?”

“He didn’t mean anything,” Megan put in quickly. “She was dreaming. Deirdre, it was just a nightmare. It must have been.”

“But it wasn’t!” Deirdre insisted, gazing at her sister with wide, guileless eyes. “Dennis was here. He was as clear to me as you are. He stood right there and looked at me with such pain and despair. I couldn’t be mistaken.”

“But, darling…”

Her younger sister gave her a look of mingled reproach and pity. “Don’t you think I know the difference between a nightmare and a vision? I’ve had both of them often enough.”

“Of course you have,” their father responded, and turned to glower at Megan. “Just because there are things you cannot see or hear, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Why, I could tell you tales that would make your hair stand on end.”

“Yes, and you have on many occasions,” Megan responded, her tart tone of voice softened by the smile she directed at her father.

Frank Mulcahey was a short, wiry man, full of energy and a love of life. At the age of fifteen, he had come to New York from his native Ireland, and he was always ready to tell anyone who would listen how his dreams had all come true in America. He had built a thriving business as a greengrocer, married a beautiful blond American girl and raised a family of healthy, happy children. Only those who knew him well knew of the hardships he had endured—the years of working and scrimping to open his grocery, the death of his beloved wife shortly after Deirdre’s birth, the hard task of raising six children on his own and, finally, the death of his oldest son ten years ago. Many another man would have broken under the blows of fate, but Frank Mulcahey had absorbed them and moved on, his spirit wounded but never vanquished.

In coloring he resembled his daughter Megan; his close-cropped hair was the same warm reddish brown, though now liberally streaked through with gray, and if he had allowed it to grow longer, it would have curled just as riotously. The line of freckles across Megan’s nose came from her father, too, and her eyes were the same mahogany color, their brown depths warmed by an elusive hint of red. They were alike, too, in their drive and determination—and, as Deirdre had pointed out more than once, in their sheer bullheadedness, a fact that had caused them to clash on many occasions.

“Clearly you did not listen to the tales well enough,” Frank told Megan now. “Or you did not keep an open mind.”