A child carries one man's blood, another man's name. After an ill-advised tryst beneath the night-time Maryland sky, Colter Ahern leaves his love Kitty Forbes behind to seek his fortune in Ireland as a horse trainer. When Kitty learns Colter also left a child behind, she has to make a choice that will change their lives forever. Reunited after thirteen years in the small town of Westminster, Maryland, Colter and Kitty realize their passion burns as hot as ever, but vow to resist it. Kitty's husband, the man who had saved her child by marrying her, crazed with jealousy and tormented by a terminal illness, seeks to reach beyond the grave to keep Colter and Kitty apart. When the child they all love is put in danger, can Colter and Kitty save him?
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Anne Manning had to have been a Texan in a previous life. This time around, she got to the Lone Star State as fast as she could. When she's not writing, she raises herbs and trolls the Food Network for new and exciting recipes to use them. Her latest passion is learning about website design and adding fresh, interesting content to her website. Her muse, Calliope is contributing her own column to that effort.
"A wonderful story full of richly textured characterizations and family dynamics, this story grips the reader at page one and never lets go. Congratulations, Ms. Manning. BLOODLINES is a keeper!"Marilyn Grall, Author IN SEARCH OF AMANDA, TAMING THE LION
"A love story to stir your soul! ... Heart-rending characters and heart-pounding plot!Jo-Ann Power, Best-selling Author NEVER BEFORE AND NEVER AGAIN
"An extraordinarily good read. Not only are all the characters, major and walk-ons, well-drawn, totally believable, the book itself is a love story with obstacles galore, action enough to satisfy the most discriminating, and murder most foul (all with a decided and engrossing twist). This is a fresh, well-written glimpse into the lives of two people who are flawed, needy, honest, honorable, and wonderful. Ms. Manning, you have given me an enormous amount of pleasure. This is a best seller in the making."Under the Covers
Carroll County, Maryland March, 1843
FATHER TRACY raised the bread above his head, offering it for consecration. Colter Ahern knelt by his mother, trying hard to keep his mind on the commonplace miracle of the Mass.
But, begorrah, he could smell her. Above the incense, above the packed mustiness of the parishioners, he could smell the lavender scent he knew so well.
A row ahead of him on the other side of the church, she knelt, hands delicately clasped, bowed head covered by her bonnet. Under that hat he knew her hair was the color of sable, a rich dark brown, thick and wavy and soft. Unpinned it hung to her waist. Colter knew that because he often made her take it down when they were alone. Under the elegant sweep of her dark brows, her eyes were big, clear, and gray green. When she was angry, they darkened, like a storm at sea. He'd seen that sight often, too, sometimes goading her, just a little, to see the lightning flash in those stormy eyes.
The stained glass filtered the light of the morning sun to highlight the fine lines of her nose, her cheekbones, her chin. As though God himself had molded each one, every feature was perfectly formed, as well known to Colter as his own.
His fingers tingled with the remembered feeling of her skin. His lips parted in memory of her kiss.
Kitty. Even her name was precious.
And she loved him. Colter smiled. Tonight he'd tell her. After all, she had to give her consent to her part in his plans. He was sure she would be as excited by the prospects for their future as he was.
"Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi," Father Tracy intoned to the first communicant.
Colter's mother, Maeve, jabbed him in the ribs to get him moving to the rail for Communion.
He stepped out into the aisle and stood back to let his parents and sisters go first. His father, Patrick, gave Colter a wink. "Keep your mind on Church, boyo," he whispered with a grin.
Colter returned the smile. Da knew what it was to be in love.
As he passed by the pew where she waited her turn to go to the rail, he dared a quick look.
Their eyes met. A warm blush crept up her face and a tiny smile tipped the corners of her full, pink lips.
Mother of God, he thought with a gulp, as his body forgot where he was and reacted to her. He'd better keep his eyes forward and his mind on proper things.
Colter knelt at the rail.
"Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi," said Father Tracy in his solemn monotone, holding the host before Colter's face, "custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam."
"Amen," Colter responded, accepting the dry, tasteless bread and crossing himself, then he rose and followed his parents back to their seats, glancing at her as he passed by. She again rewarded his attention with a smile.
Colter tried to keep up an appearance of piety while he watched her. Kitty was a tall girl, and though only seventeen, she looked like a queen.
She knelt at the rail, her mother on one side.
His enjoyment in watching her was ruined when he recognized the person making up the rest of the picture.
Look at the gall, Colter fumed silently, straining to restrain the foul curses that rose to his lips.
On Kitty's other side, kneeling a bit nearer than necessary, was none other than the fine young Mr. Dexter.
Kinda close there, aren't you, Anson? Begorrah. I already told him to stay away from her.
"Ow," Colter exclaimed at the sudden pain in his right shoulder. It felt like a vise had clamped down on him. He looked past his mother, but not before he noticed the smile she tried to suppress, to his father. Patrick held Colter in a grip that forced him to sit still. His father shook his head and mouthed the words, patience, boyo.
Even with Patrick's admonition, not to mention the pressure from his strong hand, Colter nearly came out of his seat when Dexter took Kitty's elbow, helping her rise from the kneeler.
"Colter," Maeve said in a barely audible whisper, her tiny hand on his knee, the gentle pressure stopping him just as effectively as Patrick's crushing hold, "mind yourself."
"Ma, did you see that? She didn't need any help. It was just an excuse to touch her."
On Colter's other side, his brothers, Michael and Seamus, snorted in amusement.
The snorts died at Maeve's stern look.
"But, Ma." His rough whisper was a sorry substitute for the roar he had ready.
Maeve turned her Emerald Isle green eyes on him. He shut his mouth.
Anson Dexter held Kitty's elbow until she was once more safely in her seat. Colter's smoldering rage burst into a full flame as Anson passed by on the way to his own seat, a smug smile on his face.
That banker's brat is going to get a whallopin', Colter promised himself.
Everybody knew Kitty was his girl. Everybody knew they were going to get married just as soon as he had prepared himself for a wife and family.
Suddenly, the thought occurred to Colter that when he left, there would be nothing in Dexter's way. Kitty would be alone to face the pressure her dragon of a mother would put behind Anson's case.
The old priest raised his arms to give the benediction. Colter bowed his head to receive the blessing, but he also prayed.
"Holy Mother, please, keep her safe for me while I'm gone."