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Authors: Karen Welch

Shannon's Daughter

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Shannon’s
Daughter

 

A
novel by

Karen
Welch

 
 
 
 

Copyright
© 2013 Karen Welch

Published by
LilyBear
House, LLC.

www.LilyBearHouse.com

All
rights reserved

 

This book is a work of
fiction.
 
Names,
characters, places
and incidents are either the product of the author’s
imagination or used fictitiously.
 
Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales
or events is entirely coincidental.

Cover images licensed through
Getty Images, Inc. (USA)

Photo credits

Cover design by C.W. Ferris

 
 
 
 

This book is dedicated to my
readers, who have given me the courage to follow this rainbow.

 
 

Foreword

When I
first met Peg Shannon, in the early pages of
Hearts Unfold
, I had no
idea she would become more than a reference to the older woman in Stani Moss’s
romantic past.
 
It’s fair to say she insinuated
herself into the plot, becoming a central secondary character who just would
not go away.
 
I thought briefly about
turning her into a source of conflict, but that didn’t seem to fit.
 
Peg, despite her questionable history with
Stani, was not a “bad” woman.
 
Her heart
was invariably in the right place, although her methods were often
unorthodox.
 
To put it simply, Peg intrigued
me from the beginning and I was curious as to what she might do next.

By the
end of the fourth book in what became the Miracle at Valley Rise series, my
curiosity demanded answers.
 
I knew I
wanted to explore Peg’s history, her back story.
 
I wanted to discover who and what had
influenced her.
 
I knew there had to be
more to Peg than met the eye, more than a wealthy, independent woman who played
life by her own rules.
 

I had some
boundaries, facts already established, and a timeline to follow.
 
I couldn’t rewrite Peg’s past.
 
It had to mesh with what we already knew from
the series.
 
Challenged by this and the fact
that Peg’s story would not fit into the same inspirational genre as the Miracle
at Valley Rise books, I had my work cut out for me.
 

My
saving grace was a name, Kendall Gregg.
 
All we knew about Kendall was that he was a man in Peg’s past, a love
affair.
 
Their relationship had ended
before she met Stani, but they had remained friends.
 
Not much to go on.
 
That is, until I “met” Kendall.
 
As is true with many of my characters,
Kendall walked into the room, introduced himself and led me on a merry and at
times breathless chase.
 
He turned out to
be the source for everything I wanted to know about Peg, so I let him tell the
story from his perspective.
 

The
result is
Shannon’s Daughter
, a traditionally romantic tale with a nontraditional
happy ending.
  
  

 
 
 

County
Carlow, Ireland—1949

 
 

Chapter One

 

Kendall
stepped off the train at Carlow Town bent on finding food and sleep as quickly
as possible.
 
Done in from a day of
travel, and fighting a lingering headache—no doubt thanks to a raucous reunion
with some London mates the previous night, he was not in the best shape to meet
his—or rather his mother’s—newly acquired family.
 
Not that he had been able to work up much
enthusiasm for this trip in the first place.

Through
the station’s general din, he could have sworn he heard his name called.
 
He was to be met by his stepfather’s eldest
brother, but he hardly imagined the man would stand bellowing to him in the
midst of the crowd.
 
By the time he
identified a boy in railway livery as the one issuing the page, he was slightly
dizzy from turning in search of its source.

“Mr.
Kendall Gregg?”
 
The boy seemed to sum
him up for size.
 
“There’s a telephone
call for you sir, from a young lady.”

For a
panicked instant, reason deserted him.
 
Trailing the boy toward the station’s small office, he groped for a logical
explanation as to who might have tracked him down here.
 
The list of women in his life was short, and
there were few who could have an urgent need to reach him.
   

“Gregg
here.”
 
Perhaps it was only his mother, who he
supposed might pass for youngish over the phone.
 
It would be like Eloise to conjure up an
emergency, real or imagined, which he would be expected to resolve.

“Mr.
Gregg, this is Peg Shannon, Michael Shannon’s daughter?”
 
The voice, low and warm with a distinctive
American accent, paused as though he might actually question who Michael
Shannon was.
 
“My father apologizes, but
he’s been held up by a transatlantic business call and was unable to meet your
train.
 
Would you mind very much getting
a cab to our flat?
 
I’ll be happy to pay
the fare when you arrive.”

He
wondered if she caught his relieved gasp.
 
He’d been unconsciously holding his breath until the moment he heard her
voice, calm and polished, stating its simple request.
 
As she gave him the address, it occurred to him
that Miss Shannon possessed the sort of voice to
reassure,
whatever the message.

During
the cab ride, he tried to recall what his mother had said about Michael’s daughter.
 
Somehow, he’d thought Peg Shannon was just a child,
but then his mother was a predictably unreliable source of information.
 
He’d learned never to trust her beyond the
most basic.
 
Obviously she’d
misunderstood about Michael’s only child, heir to his fortune and from all
reports the apple of his eye.
 
Thinking
back to their brief conversation, he decided he was actually looking forward to
meeting the woman attached to that intriguing voice, with its rich tone and
underlying humor.
 
Perhaps he could risk
a little diversion.
 
Two weeks, an
American girl and no danger of anything beyond a casual flirtation should be
harmless enough.
 
It was probably time he
let himself venture at least that far.

He’d
insisted he would handle the fare, but when the taxi came to a halt, there was
someone waiting on the curb.
 
He blinked
stupidly as the cabby accepted coins from an adolescent girl.
 
“Mr. Gregg?” she asked, mimicking the voice
on the phone, “Are you planning to get out?
 
We do have a car, you know.
 
We
won’t be taking the cab to Aunt Addie’s.”
 
She stared at him over the seat, blue eyes gleaming with laughter in an
otherwise perfectly straight face.
 

He
stammered something inane, and eventually found himself on the pavement with
his bags at his feet and the girl still staring at him.
 
Holding out her hand, she said much too
naturally for one so young, “It’s a pleasure to have you joining us, Mr.
Gregg.
 
I know I speak for my father in
welcoming you to the family.”

He
stammered again, this time that the pleasure was his, before the absurdity of
the scene struck him.
 
In spite of
himself, he chuckled.
 
“Miss Shannon, Peg
if I may, please stop treating me as though I were some ancient visiting dignitary.
 
And please call me Kendall.”

To his
relief, she grinned up at him, giving his hand an overly emphatic pump.
 
“Sorry.
 
I guess I was expecting someone older.”

He laughed
out loud, pent up nerves threatening to overtake his manners.
 
“So was I!
 
Was that really you on the telephone?”

She
took up two of his bags and turned toward the narrow building’s entrance.
 
“Yes.
 
My friends all tease me that I could pass for thirty on the phone.
 
It’s only because I’m allowed to answer calls
at Dad’s office and pretend I’m the secretary.
 
I like to pretend, you see, and I get lots of practice that way.”
 

“Pretend
what, exactly?” he asked, more for the continued sound of her voice than for an
explanation of this bizarre behavior.

“Oh,
you know, that I’m not me, that I’m someone else.
 
I suppose if things were different, I might
want to be an actress someday.
 
As it is,
I just like to see how far I can go pretending before I’m found out.”

Following
her up the steep stairway, he took the opportunity for a closer look at the
girl.
 
She was probably tall for her age,
with long legs and a graceful bearing.
 
Dressed in tailored linen trousers and twin set, with her hair twisted
in long braids, she seemed an odd juxtaposition of woman and child.
 
The expression in her eyes when she glanced
down at him was wiser than any adolescent girl had a right to, yet there was an
innocent sweetness to her apologetic smile.
 

“Sorry
to make you climb all this way, but Dad’s on the phone.
 
I had to use the call box at the market.
 
I can find you something to eat, if you’re
hungry.
 
At least you won’t starve before
we can get you to Aunt Addie’s.
 
And I’ll
warn you now it’s pretty crazy there.
 
It’s a shame really, to throw you in there on your own.
 
It must seem weird, meeting a whole new
family of strangers like this.
 
When are
Uncle Patrick and your mother coming over?”
 
She paused for breath at the landing.

“They should
be here Friday night.
 
They were delayed
leaving Monaco, I’m afraid.”
 
Kendall was
touched by the idea that this girl wanted to take care of him.
 
“How many are there at
Mrs.
. . .at Aunt Adelaide’s just now?”

“Let’s
see, Uncle Sean and Aunt Maureen just arrived from Edinburgh yesterday.
 
Then there are some cousins, mainly from
Dublin and Kilkenny.”
 
As she pushed her
way through the partially open door, she turned to him with a grimace. “At
least a dozen little kids, most under the age of ten.
 
Maeve and Agnes are there, of course, and
Jack.
 
They’re the closest to our ages,
but Jack thinks he’s quite the college man these days, too old to run around with
the rest of us.”
 
He nodded, resisting
the temptation to point out the number of years between their ages, or that he
was a college man himself.
 

With a
candid glance, Kendall took in the casual opulence of the flat’s sitting room,
furnished in gleaming wood and tasteful upholstery, the walls hung with an
impressive collection of artwork.
 
His
eyes came to rest on a painting he recognized as the work of John Lavery and he
must have gawked at the sight.

“Don’t
be too impressed.
 
It’s a print.
 
A very low number, but
still a print.
 
We have the
original in the brownstone in New York.
 
It’s one of Dad’s favorites.”

Swallowing
his amazement, he reminded himself that this girl, and indeed most of the
Shannons, lived in a world he could only dream of visiting.
 
“It’s very beautiful.”

“Would
you like to freshen up?
 
It sounds like Dad’s
still at it in there.”
 
Through the
closed door to an adjoining room, muffled but firm and persuasive in tone, the
voice of the great man himself could be heard.
 
“He’ll win this one, but it’s taking a little bit longer than he
expected.
 
There’s a lot of money riding
on it, you see, so he won’t lose.”

“An
investor?” he asked, as though he had some notion of what was being discussed.

“Oh,
no.
 
A donation.
 
To the foundation, you know.”

“I’m
afraid I don’t.
 
High finance is very
much out of my league.”

“The
Mary Margaret Shannon Foundation, in memory of my mother.
 
Dad spends as much time on foundation business as he does at the bank.
 
Right now, he’s cornered an old classmate
from Cornell and he’ll end up with a five-figure endowment for a scholarship
fund before the day’s over, or my name isn’t Anna Margaret Shannon.”

He
grinned in spite of himself.
 
The pride
in her eyes as she gazed at the closed door and the confident little toss of
her head punctuating that statement were in stark contrast to her pert, lightly
freckled face.
 
“Is it?
 
Anna Margaret, I mean.
 
I’d only heard Peg.”

“I’ve
always been called Peg, but in the future, I may decide to use my full
name.
 
More impressive, don’t you think?”

“I
suppose.”
 
He wanted to tell her the name
had nothing to do with her impressiveness.
 
She was plainly a force to be reckoned with already, with a keen mind
and a disarming frankness that left him wondering what she’d be like ten years
from now.
 

“I’m
sorry.
 
Where are my manners?
 
The bathroom’s right through there.
 
I’ll put the kettle on.
 
I assume you’ll drink tea?
 
Katie, she’s our maid here, always leaves some
sandwiches in the fridge.
 
I don’t cook,
you see.”

Thus
dismissed, he did the necessary, noting that his reflection in the mirror
didn’t appear too shabby, despite the long day.
 
He was blessed, he knew, with the sort of good looks which could take a
beating and still serve him well.
 
No
dark circles beneath his blue eyes, no pallor to his suntanned face, and his black
hair possessed just enough curl to resist damp or wind.
 
It wasn’t that Kendall was vain; but he’d
long been aware of the benefits which came with broad shoulders and elegant
manners.
 
As a teenager during the war,
tall for his age and able to pull off a dinner jacket without looking
ridiculous, he’d been call into service as an escort for his mother’s friends,
several of whom had shown him favors far beyond exposure to concerts and
plays.
 

He
started at the sharp rap on the door.
 
“Do you need milk for your tea?
 
I’m afraid ours may have gone sour.
 
I never touch the stuff, but Katie insists we have some on hand.
 
I can run down to the market if you do.”

“No,
that’s all right.
 
I don’t take it
anyway.
 
I’ll be there in a tick.”

“No
hurry.”
 
The reply was muffled as she
walked away.
 
Bold little thing, he
smirked at his reflection.
 
Somehow he
doubted Peg Shannon would be impressed by his looks or his experience.
 
The thought was oddly refreshing, and he
released the day’s built-up anxiety in a long sigh, realizing his headache had
all but disappeared.

She’d
set the small dining table with fine china and silver, along with a linen
napkin.
 
“This is very elegant.
 
You’re not joining me?”

“Oh,
no.
 
I ate hours ago.
 
Dad may have something when he’s done.
 
Dad can eat anytime of the day or
night.”
 
As she talked, she filled his
cup and moved a platter of sandwiches toward him.
 
“How was your trip over?”

BOOK: Shannon's Daughter
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