Understandably, she doesn't take well to strangers,
especially Sean Ballagh, who Bean instinctively senses
will change both of their lives. Below is an excerpt of
how these two meet.
stepped forward, trying to make out the woman's features, but
a strange dog launched itself against the door with a loud
bang that made Sean jump back.
He stared at the little beast in horror as it
growled and snarled aggressively.
The woman reached down and grabbed the monster by
the collar and hauled it away.
He glimpsed a pale face, long golden brown hair
and a baby blue sweater before she disappeared back in
the shadowy entryway of her home.
It was enough.
She was the woman he’d been looking for.
As if there’d ever been a doubt.
“I said it was shame you don’t know
the name of your own father,”
An imperceptible pause and then, “I
don’t have a father.
I don’t have any family.”
“Ah, but you’re wrong.”
He opened the manila envelope he’d
brought with him and took out the snapshot.
He stared at it for a moment before pressing it
against the screening.
The dog growled again, but the lure pulled the
The sun shifted a little higher,
catching her in a beam that penetrated the screen and
illuminated a delicate face with large, gray eyes.
Sean stared at her, stunned by the feeling that
cut through him.
She was familiar—not just because he’d known her
when they’d been children living in
It was more than that.
The sight of her lovely face, those soulful eyes,
roused an awareness that went deeper than mere
It was harsh and it was intimate and it confounded him
In one arm she held the vicious
little canine, the other hung at her side, fingers
clenching and unclenching nervously.
She cast him a guarded glance and caught him
staring, mouth open.
He forced himself to shut it.
There was something perplexing in her
expression—as if she’d had the same bewildering sense of
recognition as he.
As if she knew who he was and what he really
if she knew him.
The realization unsettled Sean long after she’d
turned her attention to the photograph he held.
She stared at the picture as if
entranced then brought her fingers up to touch it
through the screen.
“Where did you get this?” she murmured.
“It was taken in Ballyfionúir.
Ireland, where you’re from.
Where I live.”
He waited a half beat before saying softly, “’Tis
She made a low sound and pressed her
palm over the image in a gesture that at once caressed
He swallowed back his conscience and asked, “Would it be
possible to speak with you, Danni Jones?
Without the door between us, perhaps?”
He felt her eyes boring into him
through the screen and warring desires pounded in his
was something fragile about her that he hadn’t expected.
Something defenseless, despite the stiff back and
He didn't want to deceive her and he certainly didn’t
want to draw her into the hell that was about to become
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Sean Ballagh, as I said.
I’m sent from Ireland to find you.
For your family.”
“Do you have ID?”
He nodded, fumbled out his passport
and placed it where he’d held the photograph against the
passport picture was old and grainy and she studied it
for a long time, her eyes moving back and forth as she
compared his staid mug shot to his real being.
Again, the recognition flickered in her eyes as
she looked at him.
She’d been only five and he barely a teenager
when they’d last seen one another.
It was unlikely she’d remember him at all, let
alone place the gangly boy he’d been into the man he’d
become, yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that she had.
“You’re very young in this picture,”
she said with a frown.
“How old is it?”
“Old,” he answered.
“I need to get a new one taken.”
At last she gave a nod, then the lock
and she opened the door.
The dog squirmed in her arms like a wild boar but
Danni managed to keep hold of it.
“Bean, no,” she scolded.
Close up, Sean was able to determine
couldn’t be all dog.
Somewhere in its lineage there most definitely
had been a badger.
The writhing, snarling animal had a long nose,
pointed ears and no tail.
There were terrier genes in there somewhere and
possibly rottweiler, too, baffling though that idea was.
“She’s very protective of me,” Danni
said, putting her fingers around its muzzle to silence
the mutant dog.
“I rescued her when she was a puppy and I’m the
only family she has.
She doesn’t like people very much as a rule.”
“Grand,” he said, putting on the
Having made the decision to open the
door, she now stepped back and bid him enter.
Sean forced himself forward and into her home.
He followed her through a sunny
sitting room with a wall of bookshelves, a comfortable
looking sofa and chair, and a small television tucked in
She went through an arched opening and stopped in a
bright, tiled kitchen.
She paused, looking momentarily unsure before
regaining her composure and indicating the table and
“Have a seat.
Would you like some tea?”
He nodded, still eyeing the beast in her arms.
She set Bean down with a stern command and went
about putting water to boil.
The dog perched at her feet, moving every time
she did and then resettling, all the while keeping Sean
Had Sean meant Danni physical harm, small or no,
the dog’s hostile stare would have made him reconsider.