The fall of shane mackad.., p.12
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       The Fall of Shane MacKade, p.12
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         Part #4 of The MacKade Brothers series by Nora Roberts
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  She pulled herself out of her thoughts and turned to Shane. “I’m sorry, what?”

  “Is that what you’re calling it? Previous stimulation?”

  “Technically.” She dragged her hands through her hair again until it stood up in spikes. “That was incredible, absolutely incredible. Last night I was sitting in the kitchen, and I could see it change. It was smaller, and there was a fire in a little stone hearth, pies on the windowsill. There was a baby crying, Shane.” Excitement sparkled in her eyes and seemed to shimmer in the air around her. “I got the baby crying on tape. I recorded it.”

  Pressing her hands to her cheeks, she laughed. “I could hardly believe it myself, even after I played it back half a dozen times. That’s why I got out the wine. A little toast that turned into several big ones. I meant to tell you this morning, but we got distracted.”

  “Distracted.”

  Finally, the edgy tone of his voice, the flat look in his eyes, pierced through her exhilaration. The glow faded from her cheeks. He was pale, his face set, his eyes hard.

  “Why are you angry?”

  “Because this is nonsense,” he tossed back, preferring anger to the heady sensation of fear. “And because I don’t like being called a distraction, or a previous stimulation.”

  “That’s not it at all.”

  “Don’t you start on me. Keep your degrees in your pocket, and don’t poke in my brain.”

  “You’re not angry,” she said quietly. “You’re scared.”

  For an instant, his eyes were lethal. “I’ve got things to do.”

  She darted after him, grabbing his arm when they got to the kitchen. “You said you’d help me, Shane. You gave me your word on it.”

  “Leave it alone.” Toughly he shook her off. “Leave me alone.”

  She simply stepped into his path and blocked it. Another man, she knew, might have mowed her down. And Shane had the temper for it, as well as the strength. But he also had what made him Shane. “You had the same experience I did, felt the same things I did. I can see it in your face.”

  He reached out, picked her up and set her aside. “I said leave it alone.”

  “Who were John and Sarah?” She let out a breath when he stopped on his way to the door. “Her name was Sarah. Who were they, Shane? Who were we a few minutes ago?”

  “I’m exactly the same person now as I was a few minutes ago. And so are you. If you’re going to keep playing this game, leave me out of it.”

  “John and Sarah,” she said again. “Was it John and Sarah MacKade? Would I find their names in your family Bible?”

  He whirled back, stalked to the refrigerator. With one rigid hand, he jerked open the door, took out a beer. After twisting the top off violently, he tossed it aside and drank half the bottle down.

  “My great-grandparents.”

  She let out a long, long sigh. “I see. And they lived here, in this house. They were the ones who tried to save the young Union soldier the day of the battle.”

  “So the story goes.”

  “What happened here just now—you’ve experienced similar things before.”

  He caught her quick look toward her computer and set his teeth. “No. No way in hell you’re going to use me like some damn lab rat.”

  “All right, I’m sorry. This upsets you.” She walked to him to run her hands up his arms. “But I think you need to know that for several years now I’ve had dreams. And now I know they were about this house, and those people.”

  He lowered his beer, but said nothing. Rebecca waited a moment, wondering if this kind of intimacy was more than either of them was prepared for.

  “The dreams were one of the major reasons I began research into this field. They were—are—real, Shane. I’ve seen this room, this house, as it was more than a hundred years ago. And I’ve seen John and Sarah. I don’t know if you have any old photographs of them to corroborate that. I can certainly describe them to you, at different periods of their lives here together. I can even tell you things she thought, felt, wanted. I think you can do the same with him.”

  “No.” He said it flatly, finally. A lie for an honest man, a defense for a brave one. “I don’t believe in any of that.”

  In frustration, she lifted her hands. “Do you think I’m making it up, that I’m making all of what just happened up?”

  “I think you’ve got too many things crowded in that major-league brain of yours.” To ease his hot throat, he took another swig of beer. “And I prefer reality.”

  She could have told him he was in denial, but that would only have made him angry—and possibly more resistant. Patience, she decided, patience and understanding, would be more productive all around.

  “All right. We’ll let it go, as long as you understand you can talk to me about it anytime.”

  “You’re not my therapist.”

  “No, I’m not.”

  Her voice was entirely too reasonable. He slammed down the bottle. “I want you in bed, understand. That’s what I want, that’s what I need. Just you, just me.” Grabbing her hand, he dragged her from the room. “Dreams are just dreams, and ghosts belong in bad movies. So you can just turn off that brain of yours. Distraction, my butt.”

  He was all but heaving her up the stairs, and she felt twin sensations of alarm and arousal. “It wasn’t meant as an insult.”

  “Too many damn people inside you to suit me. I like it simple.” He let her go to sit down on the edge of the bed and pull off his boots.

  “I’m not simple,” she said quietly. “Not the way you mean.”

  “This is simple.” Boots dispatched, he rose to pull off his shirt, unhook his belt. “I want you. I break out in a sweat just thinking about you. That’s basic, Rebecca. That’s simple.”

  It was love, every bit as much as need, that had her moving to him, wrapping her arms around him. “I’m here.” She lifted her head and drew his mouth down to hers.

  She gentled him, as he would a skittish animal. Soothing hands, welcoming lips. He told himself that if this was familiar, this sinking into her, this allowing her to smooth away his worries, it was because he had lain with her here only that morning.

  But as he fell into the sweet, seductive rhythm of loving her, it was as if there had been no one before, would be no one after. Only the texture of her skin would stay in his memory, the taste of her mouth, the sound of her sigh.

  And as she rose to meet him in that fluid movement of comfortable sex, part of his mind fretted that he would never want, could never want, anyone else.

  Even as he tumbled over that last edge of pleasure, he held himself back from a bigger, more dangerous fall.

  Chapter 9

  I’ve now had three events at the farm. The last was during the night. I felt such grief, such tearing grief. There was a candle by the bed, burning. For a moment, I thought there was a figure standing by the window. Just standing, looking out at the night. While the grief was in me, it was also there, shimmering around that figure. A shared, yet separate, pain. I thought it was Shane, and started to get out of bed to go to him. But he was asleep beside me. And there was no one standing there at all.

  I knew, clearly, that it was John and Sarah, and that their son was dead. I knew this even before Shane stirred restlessly beside me. He dreams, as I do, and he feels, as I do, but he doesn’t want to speak of it. They’re part of him, the people who lived here, who remain here in some fashion. Not only through blood, but through spirit. I wonder why they seem to be part of me, as well.

  It upsets him, so I didn’t tell him. Perhaps this is wrong. It’s certainly unprofessional. But I’m learning that love has its own way. I love him so much, and in my own limited fashion would protect him from what haunts him.

  I wonder what his feelings are for me, but I don’t ask. I have to protect myself, as well. I can talk to him about anything but that. Anything at all. And I never run out of words. He’s in the fields now. There is always so much work that must be done, yet he never seems to
tire of it, or resent it. For myself, in this first, dizzying rush of love, I realize I could spend every second of every day with him and still not have enough time. It’s a wonderful, liberating and humbling thing, this love. I’m so grateful I’ve had the chance to experience it.

  If I could, I would take one moment, any single moment at all that I’ve had with him, crystallize it, preserve it, and carry it with me. Then, in all the years to come, I could take it out, not just to remember, but to relive.

  Love gives you the oddest fantasies.

  Rebecca heard the bark of the dogs, and the voices. Like a woman hiding a secret treasure, she saved her document and changed screens. Devin opened the door, followed by boys and dogs and all the noise that comes with them.

  “Sorry. Didn’t mean to bust in on you.”

  “That’s all right.” Automatically she lowered a hand to rub at the dogs, who came to greet her. “I was just finished.”

  “Cassie’s just like the rest of the women in the county. Figures Shane must be starving.” He set a dish on the counter. “She sent over an apple cobbler.”

  “It’s great,” Bryan informed Rebecca. “We had some of the other one she made already.” Obviously at home, he poked into the refrigerator.

  “Are you writing your book?” Connor approached more slowly, his eyes on her laptop.

  “Not right now. Do you use a computer?”

  He was studying hers with naked envy. “We get to use them in school sometimes. But they’re not like this one.”

  “This one’s loaded. Want to try it?”

  He goggled. “Really?” He looked at his father, then put his hands behind his back. “I don’t know how to work this kind.”

  “Nothing to it.” Recognizing the look in his eyes, she laughed and took his hand to draw him closer. “I can show you. I’ve got everything backed up.”

  “Now you’ve done it,” Devin murmured. “He’s going to start pining for one.”

  “I can get you a deal on a used one.” With a grin, she rose and pointed at her chair. “Sit down and give it a go. You must know the basic functions.”

  “Sure.” The first thing he did was type his name. Connor MacKade.

  “Does it play any games?” Bryan wanted to know.

  “Nope. It’s just a workhorse.”

  Losing interest immediately, Bryan cast his eyes on the cobbler.

  “Forget it,” Devin warned. “We came by to give Shane a hand with the haying,” he told Rebecca. “You can expect the rest to descend before long.”

  “Oh.” She glanced toward the window. “He’s out there now, mowing it.”

  “Baling it,” Devin told her. “First you mow, then you rake, then you bale.”

  “Right.”

  “You guys head out when you’re done here. And don’t pester Dr. Knight.”

  She followed him out to the porch and paused outside the door. “Devin, you lived here a long time.”

  “Most of my life.”

  “Have you ever had any unusual experiences? Of a paranormal nature,” she added when he flashed a grin.

  “You’re asking if I think the place is haunted. Sure it is.”

  She shook her head. “You say that so casually.”

  “I’ve lived with it. You get used to it.”

  “Not everyone.”

  He followed her gaze to where Shane guided the tractor over the mowed hay. “Shane’s got a stubborn streak.”

  “So I’ve noticed.”

  “And when it comes down to it, he’s got a sensitive nature.” Devin grinned again. “He’d bloody my nose for that one. But he does. Lived on a farm all his life, but he suffers if an animal’s in pain, or if he loses one. Can’t take it as a matter of course. There’s a lot of leftover emotion in this house. It gets to him.”

  “Yet he lives here.”

  “He loves it,” Devin said simply. “Every stone. Can you picture him anyplace else?”

  She looked out to the hayfield again, smiled. “No. No, I can’t. I could help him with what’s here. If he’d let me.”

  “Maybe you could.” Devin sighed. He was used to women falling for Shane, but it was easy to see that Rebecca was different. He doubted that she’d walk away unscathed when the time came. “I’d better go give him a hand.”

  She made some sound of agreement, and watched for some time before she went back into the house.

  Devin told himself it wasn’t his business as he walked across the field. In the easy rhythm of familiarity, he fell into step behind the baler. They worked together in silence until Shane shut off the motor.

  “Rafe and Jared coming?”

  “Should be on their way.”

  Shane nodded, squinted at the sky. “It’s going to rain. We’ve only got another hour or two to get this in.” But his gaze wandered to the house and stayed there.

  “Damn it, Shane.” Disgusted, Devin pulled out a bandanna and mopped his brow. “You’re sleeping with her.”

  “Who?”

  “Don’t give me that. Aren’t there enough women to dangle after around here without sniffing around Regan’s friend? She’s not even your type.”

  Shane worked to keep his temper in check. “You’ve always said I don’t have a type.”

  “You know what I mean. That’s a serious woman. Serious women have serious feelings. If she’s not in love with you already, she will be. Then what the hell are you going to do?”

  It cut just a little too close to the quick. Shane had always been careful to keep women from falling in love with him—seriously in love, in any case. And he knew he wasn’t being careful with Rebecca.

  “That’s my business, isn’t it? Mine and Rebecca’s. I didn’t push her into anything.”

  To drown out any more unwelcome advice, he cranked up the tractor again.

  He wasn’t going to talk about it, and he certainly wasn’t going to worry about it. He meant to go on as he always had, and that meant, at this moment, getting the haying done before the rain hit.

  He was grateful when the rest of his family showed up. It meant extra hands to load the hay wagon, drive it to the barn and off-load it. It also meant everyone was too busy working to pester him about his private life.

  A man was entitled to a private life.

  He cooled down considerably when it looked as if the job would be done before the storm hit. And when he could see children playing in the yard, dogs racing around and women going in and out of the house. Then there was the soothing quality of the steady vibration of the tractor under him, the voices of his brothers, that sweet, strong scent of hay. The clouds rolling in from the west shadowed the mountain, and the winter wheat he’d planted would welcome the rain.

  In the kitchen, someone would be cooking, he mused, glancing over his shoulder to check the progress of the hay wagon. It wouldn’t be Rebecca. She’d be playing with one of the babies. And when he walked in, covered with hay dust, she’d look over and smile.

  She had the prettiest smile.

  By the time they were hauling bales from wagon to barn, Shane had convinced himself that Devin was not only out of line, he was off base.

  “So.” Rafe took a break, gulping down some of the ice water from the cooler just inside the barn. “I didn’t get a chance to talk to Rebecca. How’s the ghostbusting?”

  “She’s into it.” Sharp prickles of dry hay poked through his work gloves as Shane heaved a bale. “She gets pretty intense about something that’s just a hobby.”

  “Hey, some people play golf,” Jared commented, loading the hay lift.

  “At least there’s a purpose to that. Get the little ball in the hole, win the game.”

  “It’s a puzzle to her,” Jared added. “She strikes me as a woman who likes to solve puzzles, find answers.”

  “Maybe I’ll buy her a jigsaw puzzle,” Shane muttered.

  “Bothers you, huh?” Amused, Rafe put his back into the work again. “Hear any chains rattling lately? Any disembodied moans?”

/>   “Kiss my butt.”

  “How’s it going otherwise?” Jared asked, with a vague thought to defusing an argument. Rain was beginning to patter on the ground, and they still had work to do. “Hasn’t been a woman living in the house since Mom died. Cramping your style?”

  A smile curved Shane’s lips. “Nope.”

  “Well, hell.” Catching Shane’s look, Rafe set down the bale he’d just lifted. “You’re sleeping with her.”

  “What am I, wearing a sign?”

  “Can’t you keep it in your pants for once?” In disgust, Rafe sliced his baling hook down. “Regan feels responsible for her.”

  Guilt and fear only inflamed a ready temper. “Why the hell should anybody feel responsible? She’s a grown woman.”

  “You going to get that last load up here?” Devin called from the loft.

  “Shut up.” Shane spared him a glance before he turned on Rafe. “It’s none of his business, it’s none of your business.”

  “Anything connected to Regan’s my business. And Rebecca’s connected. What do you know about her? Do you know how she was brought up? How she spent all her time in classrooms, with tutors, in boarding schools?”

  “What difference does it make?” Irritated because he didn’t know, knew far from enough, Shane ignored the rain, the work, and let out the frustration on his brother. “She’s got a brain, she uses it.”

  “That’s all she was ever allowed to use. She wouldn’t stand a chance if you aimed for her.”

  “What’s the problem here?” Devin stepped out into the rain. “Are we going to get this load in before it’s soaked, or just leave it?”

  “Back off,” Shane snarled at Rafe. “And stay out of my personal life.”

  Jared sighed. “Looks like we’re going to leave it.”

  “This about Rebecca?” Interested now, Devin plucked out a spear of hay and gnawed on it. “We should’ve figured he’d hit on her.”

  “I didn’t hit on her.”

  “That’s bull. She’d barely unpacked her bags and you were stalking her in my kitchen. I should’ve punched you out right then.”

  Shane’s eyes narrowed. “Try it now. You’ve got it all figured out, don’t you? Now that you’ve got your pretty wife and your pretty kids. All of you.” There was more anger than he’d realized boiling inside him. “I live my life my way, not yours. So stick your advice and your judgments and anything else you’ve got up your—”

  From the kitchen window, Rebecca watched the four men. She was puzzled. At first it had seemed they were having some sort of serious discussion—some logistical problem with the hay, she’d concluded. Then it had looked as though an argument were brewing.

  “Something’s going on out there,” she commented, and Savannah, an infant over her shoulder, wandered to the window.

  “Oh, they’re going to go at it.”

  “At what?”

  “Each other, what else?” She shook her head and called to Regan and Cassie, who were busy at the stove. “Our boys are about to rumble.”

  “Fight?” Shocked to the core, Rebecca goggled. “You mean they’re going to fight with each other? But why?”

  Regan walked to the kitchen door, opened it. “It’s just something they like to do from time to time.”

  “Do you think it’s early enough to stop it?” Cassie wondered out loud.

 
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