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Will Donegan is an outsider, suspicious of any good fortune and convinced he’s never meant to live alone. Still he searches for his family, from whom he was separated as a small child, hoping that at least with his siblings he could find a home. His search leads him to a English-earl owned ranch in the Texas Panhandle, where he finds friendship, acceptance, and to his great surprise--love.
Two more brothers dead.
Will Donegan stared at the message, grief hollowing his gut.
The curse of the Devil’s Moon still nipped his heels.
He blinked, three times, raised a hand to tug his hat farther over his hair, then paused in midair, clenching his fist to resist the urge. Instead, he curled his fingers over the letter, folding it in half--again and again--until the square fit easily between his thumb and finger. Then he squished it, squeezing with all his might, praying his strength would erase the devastating words.
It didn’t work.
For ten years he’d searched, working his way from east to west across Texas, trying to find the remains of his family, kin he had no notion existed until he was nearly twenty. All the years before, when he’d thought he was alone and unloved, he’d had eight brothers and sisters scattered across the Lone Star state like tumbleweeds. Orphans, like him, sent to whichever Irish family’d take them.
His sisters were untraceable--all supposed married and known by other last names--but Will had believed he’d find his brothers. The farther he traveled, though, the fewer folks recognized the Donegan name. No matter how many letters and telegrams he sent, no matter how many notices he posted, no one had news. This town, Clarendon, Texas, one of only three in the isolated Panhandle, had been his last lead.
Two more brothers dead.
He crumpled the paper and admitted what he’d dreaded the moment he’d set out. No doubt about it, the trail had gone cold.
He was alone after all.
"Bad news?" Mrs. Potter, owner of the general store and the woman in charge of the crate-sized post office, glided toward him.
"Not good." Will sagged against the plank that served as a counter. Complaints, excuses, arguments and pleas against the injustice of the message spun through his mind, but he didn’t voice them. He’d learned early in life to suffer in silence or face a beating, and old habits were hard to break. "Much obliged for your help."
"Will, are you ill?"
In each town, there’d always been one person who’d assisted him; the telegrapher, the local preacher, or the storekeeper. Mrs. Potter, a woman from back east, helped him here in Clarendon and was the only one who’d taken a personal interest. But she’d just lost her husband. He couldn’t burden her with his troubles.
"I don’t want to pry," she said gently, "but may I ask if anyone had news of Lee?"
He straightened. Lee. His twin.
Will unclenched his fist and scrambled to open the letter. His heart pounded like a hammer, and his tongue thickened with desperate hope, but he managed to read the important parts aloud. "Mr. Donegan. I regret to report Patrick and Sean Donegan are deceased--ranching accident and tornado. Lee Donegan was never found."
"Never found?" Mrs. Potter arched a blonde eyebrow. "Does that mean he’s dead and they didn’t find the body? Or--"
"They never found any information."
"Oh, Will." She laid a hand on his arm. "That means Lee could still be alive."
He took a deep breath. All his life he’d had strange pangs and twinges. Sometimes his stomach would cramp. Other days, he’d feel so happy he wanted to shout out loud. Some folks had blamed the curse, saying the Devil had hold of him. At first, Will had been too young to understand, and believed he was evil, that old man O’Hara had been right to beat him, to drive out the forces taking over Will’s body. Later, as he grew and felt good, helpful feelings within his heart--and love for his adopted mother--he no longer believed he had a black soul, only that he was cursed with bad luck. Everything he touched seemed to go wrong. Even that horrible night--
Cynthia Scott, a native Oklahoman living in Texas, writes romance novels by day and reads them by night. A fan of the genre since her teens, she waited until her children started school before seriously pursuing a writing career. When not writing or reading, Cynthia enjoys movies, music, history, and hanging with her husband, two sons and the family dog, but spends most of her time in the never-ending struggle to understand the language of teenagers.
Contact Cynthia at CynthiaAScott@aol.com or visit her website at http://www.cynthiascott.org
“MASQUERADE is a delightful regency romp that will have you hooked from the very beginning… Ms. Scott has created endearing characters in a charming story that promises plenty of fun as you begin reading and certainly leave you with a smile long after you’ve turned the last page.” 4 Stars! --Leena Hyatt, Scribe’s World
“…This charming fast-paced story is a wonderful way to pass a lazy fall afternoon.” 3 Stars! Romantic Times Magazine
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 342
Paper Weight (lb): 6.3
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