Eliza O’Malley and brother Allen travel from Ireland to join their father and brothers on an 1890s Wyoming homestead. Allen is almost destroyed during the voyage, but Eliza’s benefactors rescue them both from their father’s foolish carelessness and mounting debt.
When she has worked off her passage and built her own wealth, Eliza completes the journey, knowing that she has been called to fulfill her destiny as a Heartmark woman. She is immediately swept off her feet by the neighboring rancher Frank McGee. His sister Jude, her friend and business partner, harbors a secret that will nearly destroy the love between Eliza and Frank.
Clues from an ancient diary, the fierce intervention of animal helpers, and ancient artifacts play a part in the life of all Heartmark women, including Eliza. Will they be enough to overcome the horrible rumors spread by Jude and restore Frank’s love for her?
Could this man be the answer to her prayers? “Oh, sir, I am looking for someone to help me find my brother.” She turned to the door of the men’s quarters the man had just come out of, then turned back to him. “I haven’t seen him since we left port and I’m worried sick.”
The man blanched and alarm flashed across his face, then he gave her a gentle smile and she wondered if she’d imagined that first reaction.
He cast a quick look to the door of the men’s quarters, then cleared his throat and gave her his complete attention. “Well, tell me more about this brother of yours and we will see what we can do.”
Relief and hope eased the knot in Eliza’s stomach for the first time since her father had taken charge of Allen. “Oh, yes, thank you. His name is Allen O’Malley and he’s ten years old. He has dark hair and green eyes and is about this tall.” She put her hand at about her shoulder level. “He is thin and when I saw him last he was crying his heart out at having to leave home.”
A thin man, pale and looking worse for wear, pushed open the doors from the men’s quarters, heading to the rail of the ship. Eliza peered into the darkness below before the door slammed shut again. If only she could see him…
Her companion’s eyes followed hers.
“Tell you what, Lassie. You stand right here at the opening and call out his name. Tell him I’ll bring him to you. Maybe that will help me find him.”
Hope bloomed in her breast and she nodded eagerly. Mindful of his steps on the thin rope ladder, the stranger backed down into the darkness.
Mustering as much confidence as she could, she called out to her little brother. “Allen, I’m here. Come up on deck please. This nice man will bring you to me. Allen O’Malley, I’m waiting to see you, but I’m getting impatient. Do you want me to come down there after you?”
The call was so timid she almost missed it completely. Eliza fisted her hands to her chest to keep her heart from pounding its way outside her body. “Yes, Allen, it’s me. Let this nice man bring you up on deck with me and I’ll make sure you don’t have to go down there again.”
Pale circles of light from the few lanterns which were hooked to the rafters were all James McWhorter had to guide him around the mass of humanity suffering from sea sickness below decks. He found the boy huddled in a corner. There was no lantern in this area, and it was too dark to be sure what he saw, but the smell was even worse in this corner. He put a handkerchief to his nose and tried to take shallow breaths. Feces, urine and – could it be blood? – crowded his nostrils and gagged him.
When James knelt beside the balled up little boy, his pant leg became wet with who knew what. “Son, are you all right?”
There was a sniff, followed by a long silence. “They– they hurt me. I’m scared.” The whispered, broken words tore at James’ heart.
Download now from Desert Breeze Publishing, where you can check out Books 1 and 2, Animal Instinct set in Missouri in the 1970s and Survival Instinct set in 2020 in San Francisco.