Having Faith: Callaghan Brothers, Book 7, p.1
Callaghan Brothers, Volume 7
Published by Abbie Zanders, 2015.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. April 25, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Abbie Zanders.
Written by Abbie Zanders.
Table of Contents
Having Faith (Callaghan Brothers, #7)
Before You Begin
IT’S NOT OVER!
Thanks for reading Kieran and Faith’s story
About the Author
Also by Abbie Zanders
(Callaghan Brothers, Book 7)
Before You Begin
WARNING: Due to frequent strong language and graphic scenes of a sexual nature, this book is intended for mature (21+) readers only.
If these things offend you, then this book is not for you.
If, however, you like your alphas a little rough around the edges and some serious heat in your romance, then by all means, read on...
Special thanks to Aubrey Rose Cover Designs for this amazing cover!
Special thanks also go to some very special ladies – Deb B., Anjee Z., Shelly S., Carol T., Tonya B., Susan J., Perryne D., Carla S., and Shayne R (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) - for reading the first draft and making invaluable suggestions. This is a better story because of them.
“I take it your date didn’t go so well last night,” Maggie Callaghan said with genuine empathy. She piled yet another scoop of vanilla ice cream onto Kieran’s slice of apple pie and flicked a glance at him with those swirling green eyes.
“It went well enough,” he answered with a lazy shrug. And it had. It had gone like every other date he’d had in the last six months. Nice. Normal.
The problem was, there was very little that was normal about Kieran or any of the men in his family. They were a strong bunch steeped in strength, loyalty, and honor. Highly skilled in weaponry and combat, they comprised their own special off-the-books ops team, and were often called to undertake the missions no one else wanted. Everyone in the small, sleepy town of Pine Ridge, Pennsylvania knew the rumors, of course; but only a privileged few knew the truth.
Maggie raised her eyebrows expectantly, so he continued. “I took her to see that new movie everyone’s been talking about, then a late dinner. It was nice.”
Maggie snorted softly. “Nice, huh? Callaghan boys have about as much use of “nice” as I do a rat infestation in my cold cellar.”
“Yeah.” Kieran gave her a crooked, boyish grin. Maggie understood. She always got it.
As normal as they tried to appear to the rest of the world, they needed more to retain their mercurial interest past a few hours, days at the most. They needed women who embodied the spirit of their hearts – their croies. Anything less held only temporary satisfaction.
Unfortunately, Kieran hadn’t found his yet.
All six of his older brothers had found their croies, or soul mates; he alone remained single and unattached. At six-foot-five, with two hundred and seventy five pounds of rippling muscle, blue-black hair and icy blue eyes – and the owner/operator of the hugely successful BodyWorks Fitness Center - he was quite the eligible bachelor. It seemed that every single woman – and even some not so single – wanted their chance to snag the last remaining Callaghan, to find themselves in the inner circle of the wealthy, powerful clan. While flattering, it was also disappointing.
So far, none had been successful in capturing his heart and soul, and Kieran was feeling restless. After seeing the kind of bond his brothers had with their wives, he couldn’t help but hope he would be as fortunate. He wanted a woman who loved him because she couldn’t help herself, not because of his business, his family name, or social status.
“You have to have faith, Kieran,” she told him with an enigmatic smile that sent a shiver of foreboding through him. “Your time will come.”
“Something you’re not telling me, Mags?” he asked suspiciously, the fork suspended midway between the plate and his mouth. Besides being the one they all went to when they needed a place to unload, Maggie Callaghan was also known for her frequent flashes of prophetic insight. Though she routinely denied having any such ability, every one of them had witnessed the strange phenomenon – her emerald green eyes would gloss over and begin to swirl like there was a tempest within. Kind of like they were doing right now. Before he could call her on it, though, the swirling clouds stilled and her eyes were back to normal.
“Well,” she said, her infectious grin growing to epic proportions as she set down the pot and sat down at the table with him. She leaned forward conspiratorially and whispered loudly, “I’m pregnant.”
“Jesus! That’s great, Mags!” Kieran said excitedly, reaching over to wrap a bear hug around her much smaller frame. “Mick didn’t say a word.”
Maggie’s face flushed a pretty rose color. The moment he eased up on his steel-like embrace she rose and scooted back over to the stove. Kieran’s eyes narrowed, immediately suspicious. “You didn’t tell him, did you?” he accused softly.
“I made some fresh strawberry cream pie,” she responded, ignoring his question. “Even with the Goddess buying most everything I still have more than I know what to do with. I’ll get you a slice.”
The Celtic Goddess was a high-end restaurant run by their sister-in-law, renowned chef Lexi Kattapoulos Callaghan. Several years earlier they had contracted with Maggie’s farm to produce the bulk of organic produce used in their one-of-a-kind menu offerings. Thus far the acquisition had been a highly successful and lucrative arrangement for all involved.
“And I whipped up some fresh cream, too,” she added, pretending she hadn’t heard him. “Nothing beats fresh-whipped.”
“Or I’ve got some blueberry crumble still warm. We got a huge crop of the early ones this year...”
“Maggie.” Every one of them – his six older brothers and their wives - knew that Maggie baked like a fiend when she was nervous or excited. He glanced over at the huge tubs of freshly made cookies and the tray of homemade cinnamon rolls she’d just extracted from the oven. Maggie wasn’t just anxious. She was in full-on panic mode.
“You sound just like Michael when you say it like that,” she told him. If he didn’t know her better he would swear she was pouting.
“Why haven’t you told him?” His older brother Michael worshipped the ground his wife walked on, and loved their son Ryan as much as any father could. Kieran couldn’t imagine him being anything less than ecstatic over the news.
She shrugged. A few more tendrils of dark cherry-cola colored hair escaped the clip with which she’d attempted to contain
“He’s going to figure something’s up, Mags,” Kieran said, looking pointedly around at all the treats.
“Yes,” she agreed, drawing the word out slowly as she fixed him with big green eyes. “About that...you need to take all this back to the Pub with you. Or better yet, take it over to Lacie’s. Her brother Brian loves this stuff, and heaven knows he could use the extra calories more than I can.”
Kieran’s brows knit together, at least as much as they could on his smooth, boyish face. At twenty-eight, he could have passed for much younger. “You want me to lie to my brother?”
“No, of course not,” she said irritably. “I’m just asking you to not say anything just yet.” He didn’t miss the flash of hurt in her eyes, and felt a pang of remorse for suggesting such a thing.
She paused, and he could practically see the wheels turning. “Think of it like a ‘need to know’ type thing, and Michael just doesn’t need to know yet.”
Kieran’s frown increased, prompting Maggie to add, “It’s just, well, you know how he worries over the slightest things...”
It was true. Michael did worry. Like all of the Callaghan men, he was especially protective of his wife – the one who had captured not only his heart but also his mind and soul. And, given Maggie’s nearly pathological fear of traditional medicine, Michael’s concerns were often valid ones. In her stubborn avoidance of all such things, she often did not seek treatment of what she considered minor injuries, much to the chagrin of her husband and sometimes to the detriment of her health.
They understood why she felt the way she did. Poor medical care had cost Maggie not only her parents but also resulted in her spending a good part of her childhood in the hospital. It was her grandmother, skilled with homeopathic remedies, who had taken her in and given her a normal childhood. Her husband, a doctor himself, was slowly working on building her trust.
“Does he have anything he should be worried about, Mags?” he asked. Michael was his brother by blood, but Maggie was a cherished sister as well. And Kieran had a very strong sense of family. Her health and well-being was every bit as important to him as his brothers’.
She bit her lip, her hesitation just a little too pronounced to stem the unease he felt building in his gut. He had been feeling it all day. Up till that point he’d assumed it had something to do with the funk he’d been in lately, but maybe it was more than that. His brothers all shared a sixth sense, instinctively knowing when one of them was in trouble. Their wives were such a part of them, fitting so seamlessly into their family, that it made sense such feelings would eventually extend to them as well.
“Everything is fine. I’m sure of it,” she said. But she didn’t actually believe that, and Maggie was quite possibly one of the worst liars on the planet. If he hadn’t already figured that out, the unshed tears building in her eyes and her trembling bottom lip would have clued him in.
“Ah, Maggie.” Kieran went over to where she stood at the counter, wrapping his arms around her. She virtually disappeared in his embrace.
“I’m sorry,” she sniffed into his shirt, hugging him as if he was a cherished, albeit supersized, teddy bear. “I shouldn’t have said anything. I didn’t mean to put you in the middle. I just needed to tell someone...”
“Tell someone what?” Michael’s deep voice reverberated through the kitchen, shooting his brother a questioning look.
Startled, Maggie backed away from Kieran, dropping the dish she’d had in her hand.
Kieran exchanged a brief glance with Michael as Maggie swore softly and bent to pick up the pieces. He kept his expression carefully neutral, but Michael’s eyes narrowed. The very fact that his face gave away nothing probably told his brother everything he needed to know.
“Maggie,” Michael said gently, kneeling beside her to take the broken ceramic from her hands. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she mumbled unconvincingly.
Michael stood and turned to his youngest brother. “Kieran? Have you done something to upset my wife?”
Kieran shifted uncomfortably under his older brother’s steady gaze, unwilling to lie but not wanting to rat Maggie out. As it turned out, he didn’t have to do either. Michael’s question brought some of the fire back into Maggie’s eyes. She was fiercely protective of her family, and that included Kieran.
“Of course he didn’t,” she snapped, placing herself in front of Kieran. “You know, for such a smart man you can be such a donkey’s backside.”
One of Michael’s dark brows formed a perfect arch over his luminous blue eyes. ”A donkey’s backside?” Kieran turned away in an attempt to stem the bark of laughter currently trying to escape.
“Aye,” she said, and it was a sign that she was gearing up for something. Whenever Maggie got that slight hint of Irish brogue in her voice, everyone knew enough to brace for battle.
Kieran took full advantage of the opportunity and started backing away. A riled Maggie was every bit as dangerous as a highly-trained operative. Maybe more so, because there was usually some logic or rules of engagement for operatives.
“You cannot see what is plain in front of your face, Michael Callaghan.”
Michael regarded her with a practiced calm Kieran envied. He tossed the remains of the plate in the trash can and leaned against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest. “Is that so?”
Maggie crossed her arms, too. It was hard to determine which one was more stubborn. “Aye.”
“You wouldn’t by any chance be referring to the fact that you are thirteen weeks pregnant, would you, Maggie?”
Maggie’s mouth dropped open. Michael smirked.
“You knew?” Astonishment turned to anger in the span of a few heartbeats. Kieran didn’t miss her quick glance at the cast iron skillet in the drying rack. Apparently neither did Michael, because he moved it smoothly out of her reach.
Michael sighed heavily. “I am a doctor, Maggie. And your husband.”
“You knew? And you didn’t say anything?”
“Neither did you,” he pointed out logically. Maggie scowled. Kieran wondered at the dynamics of the pair. Maggie was Michael’s passion; he was her rock, always. And he never let her get away with anything.
“By the way, you have a two o’clock with the OB.” Michael checked his watch. “That gives you about ten minutes to get ready.”
Her peeved expression turned quickly to one of fear. Her eyes widened and her arms uncrossed. “But I can’t,” she stammered. “What about Ryan?”
“Kieran’s taking him back to the Pub. Taryn’s waiting on him.”
Maggie shot Kieran a look of ultimate betrayal. “Is that why you’re here?” she said in disbelief. “All that shite about being the only one who hasn’t found his croie yet, that was just to distract me?”
He shrugged. It was true enough that he was starting to feel restless, that he was ready to meet the right woman who would be the other half of his heart. He hadn’t been lying about that. Sure, he had BodyWorks, the fitness center he owned and operated. That kept him busy. As did his martial arts classes and the occasional art work he did for his cousin Stacey’s novel covers.
But he was growing more than a little weary of the single life. He’d give it all up in a second to have a woman look at him the way Maggie looked at his brother. To have a little guy of his own to bounce on his shoulders and toss baseballs with and take fishing.
“Judas,” she mumbled, adding something in Irish that made his cheeks redden and actually made him feel bad.
“Now go on then,” Michael said sternly, tapping her backside and giving her a gentle push toward the door. “Ten minutes, then I’m toss
Maggie’s green eyes turned dark, the swirls reminding Kieran of something akin to funnel clouds. He swore the temperature in the room dropped about ten degrees, but she did what Michael said.
“And you,” Michael said, staring pointedly at Kieran as he grabbed an apple. “Stop feeling guilty. I can see it in your eyes.”
“She’s scared, Mick,” Kieran said, looking around the kitchen at all of the baked goods. The aroma alone was enough to make him consider spending an extra hour on the weight bags tonight, let alone the three plates of apple pie and vanilla ice cream she’d placed in front of him.
“I know,” Michael said on an exhale, his voice softening. He was arguably the most even-tempered and rational among all the Callaghan sons with the possible exception of Shane. Only his wife had the ability to smash through his implacable façade with unerring precision. “And the fact that she is terrifies me. It’s why we have to do this. She’ll worry herself sick.”
Kieran nodded. He understood it, but that didn’t mean he had to like it. He might never forget the way Maggie looked at him. It actually hurt enough to have him absently rubbing at his chest.
“Don’t worry,” Michael said as if reading his thoughts. “She still loves you.”
Kieran sighed. “Yeah, I guess. Forgive and forget, right?”
Michael laughed and clamped his younger brother on the shoulder. “Don’t be an idiot. Maggie doesn’t forget. Ever.”
* * *
“Hey, mom, look!” Matt’s excited shout had Faith gripping the steering wheel hard and looking around for the source worthy of such an outcry. Only a few minutes ago the boy had appeared sound asleep. “The deer on the crossing signs! They have red noses, like Rudoph!”
A wave of relief washed over Faith O’Connell as she realized the cause of his outburst was not life-threatening. “You scared me half to death, Matt,” she chastised. “What’s rule number one?”