Authors: Doreen Owens Malek
THE EDEN TREE
Doreen Owens Malek
Gypsy Autumn Publications
P.O. Box 383 • Yardley, PA 19067
Copyright 1985 and 2013
By Doreen Owens Malek
The author asserts the moral right to
be identified as the author of this work
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher.
First printing March, 1985
All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
Table of Contents
or my editor, Patricia Reynolds Smith,
who understood the spirit of this story with
the kindred soul of a fellow Celt.
Say, are you she that came to me last night
Brought by enchantment in a vision?
My spirit ravished by the wondrous sight
Knows naught aright for deep distraction…
For tho’ last night I saw her beauty plain,
Another such I never shall discern
In dream or vision till she come again,
And all the wonder of that time return.
The Second Vision
by Tadhg Dall O’Huiginn (1550-1593)
translated from the Gaelic by
the Earl of Longford
Aislinn Pierce sat up in bed, trembling from head to foot, her heart pounding. It was the same dream: her father, surrounded by flames, calling for the help which never came.
Linn glanced around wildly, unable to see in the enclosing dark. What was this place? Whose bed was this? She tried to put her feet to the floor and discovered that her blanket was wrapped around her like a winding sheet. She yanked it aside and got out of bed; the stone floor was a cold shock to her bare soles. Linn leaned against the side of the feather mattress and steadied herself with the aid of the brass bedstead. She was still shaking with the effects of the nightmare.
After a few seconds she passed a hand over her clammy forehead. She remembered now where she was. This was her grandfather’s house in Ballykinnon, Ireland. He was dead. Her father was dead. And except for the violent, terrifying visions that disturbed her sleep and caused this emotional reaction, she felt dead herself.
Linn’s grandfather, whom she’d never met, had died a month earlier. Her father had flown to Dublin to settle the old man’s affairs. The two had been on bad terms and, to Linn’s knowledge, had not communicated in thirty years. But her father had been the estate’s sole heir. When the news came he had journeyed to his boyhood town to take charge of “Ildathach,” or “Colorful Land,” which he had called the “home place.”
But he was never to reach it. The plane he’d chartered at Shannon Airport for the short hop to Ballykinnon had crashed. He and the pilot had been trapped inside and both had been burned alive in the wreckage.
Since Linn had learned of her father’s fate she hadn’t had a single night of uninterrupted sleep. During the day she felt numb and inert, lifeless, but at night her constantly active mind called up specters of her father’s torment that gave her no peace.
Linn took a deep, ragged breath. She padded silently across the hard floor to the leaded casement window, which opened outward to the courtyard below. She was the owner of all this now, the flowerbeds and the impossibly green lawns, the outbuildings and the fertile acres which stretched away as far as she could see. How strange life was. She’d hardly realized this place existed until Dermot Pierce had died, setting into motion the chain of events that had taken her father too. And here she was, the recipient of a bequest whose name she hardly could pronounce. Ildathach. Her tongue tripped over the word.
She heard a sound deep within the house, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She listened, and it came again, followed by the crash of something breaking. Oh, God. The terror of the dream returned, compounded by the sense that she was not alone in the unfamiliar, shadowed house. Irrational in her fear, Linn bolted from the guest room and darted down the passage, across the entry hall with its woven carpet and out into the yard.
The cobblestones bruised her bare feet but she ran on, over the gravel path and onto the grass, dewy and clinging. There was a crisp, cool breeze, redolent of midsummer, and it lifted her hair and flattened her gossamer gown against her as she moved. Linn raced into the stand of trees at the edge of the road, going on into the woods as if by running from the house she could run from the stark terror of the dream. But it was no use. She heard again the shrieking voices, saw and smelled the fire. Tears streamed down her face and the nightdress billowed behind her as she ran, heedless of the stones and pebbles that abraded her bare feet. The moon was full, illuminating her path, and the night was chill. A fine mist pearled the leaves on the trees and hung in the air like a curtain of gauze. Magical whitethorn bushes scraped her legs and the throaty song of night birds contributed to the otherworldly atmosphere. But Linn was unaware of the scene around her, pummeling along and stumbling on the rough terrain, choking and gasping until she came to a clearing where the trees stopped. She halted, astonished. There was a man in the field before her, stripped to the waist, stacking wood against the side of a small stone cottage.
And such a man. His body was beautiful, perfectly formed like a classical statue. He had broad shoulders and muscular arms and a strong, slender waist. The tendons in his back and arms flexed as he bent and straightened, bent and straightened, shifting the cords from the base of the chopping block to the pile at the wall of the house.
Linn watched, transfixed, unable to speak or to move. He was partially turned away from her but she could still see strong features and a square, no-nonsense jaw. His hair was dark and curling, not black but a deep, vivid brown, falling loosely over his forehead and down to the nape of his bare neck. His tanned skin gleamed wetly with the perspiration which stained the waistband of his corduroy jeans. They clung to his narrow hips and long, racehorse legs as if molded to his body. A line of dark hair twisted downward from his belly and vanished beneath his pants.
Suddenly he moved in her direction and she gasped involuntarily. He whirled on her and their eyes met.
Even at a distance of fifteen feet his gaze compelled her: direct, intense and very blue. Startled, he dropped the slab of wood he held and took a step toward her. Linn backed away.
He held up a hand. “No fear,” he said in a soft, deep voice tinged with a lilting brogue. “No fear.”
Linn stopped, hypnotized.
And who might this be? the man thought. Not one of the locals, surely. He knew them all, kept track of such things. A beauty she was too, with pale hair streaming over her shoulders, the curves of her slender body clearly outlined against the piece of nothing she wore, backlit by the moon. He could see her nipples, taut from the night chill or from fear, pressing the thin material. The outline of her lovely legs was visible below the line of her waist and hips. He swallowed hard, his mouth dry and felt the tightening in his gut that signified arousal. He had no idea who she was, but he wanted her. Instantly.
He came closer and Linn could see a frosting of gray at his temples and in the wings of dark hair above his ears. But it was premature; he was young, in his early thirties, with strong, bold features.
They stood face-to-face, and he reached out gently and touched the wetness on her cheek.
“Crying, is it?” he whispered. “Why lass, what’s amiss?”
The tenderness in his voice undid her. Linn broke down completely, putting the back of her hand against her mouth to stifle her sobs. His brow knit in concern and he gripped her shoulders. In the next instant she was in his arms.
He murmured words of comfort, this stranger she was clinging to as if he might save her life. Linn recognized Gaelic phrases from her childhood, half-remembered terms of endearment. They reminded her of her father, who had used them, and she could not stop the tears.
,” he muttered, smoothing her damp hair back from her brow. “Fair little child.” And “
” (precious one), and “
” (golden lady). He crooned to her and rocked her as she clung to him, not caring how this miracle had happened. She was aware only of the comfort and strength of his splendid body, the mesmerizing sound of his husky voice. Her sleepwear was slight barrier between them; she could feel the moisture on his skin penetrating the silk chiffon and fusing them together. He smelled musky, masculine. She closed her eyes, pressing her face against his naked shoulder, tasting the salt of his perspiration on her lips. At the touch of her mouth she felt every muscle in his body contract.
She didn’t know when he began to kiss her; she felt his mouth moving in her hair and then the heat of his lips on her face, her neck. He spread his legs, straddling her, and she moaned when she felt him hard against her. He bent his head hungrily to seek her mouth with his, and in a pale shaft of moonlight he saw that she was that rarity of rarities, a brown-eyed blonde. Her amber lashes fanned her cheeks as their lips met.
Nothing this powerful, this elemental, had ever happened to Linn in her life. She didn’t question it, couldn’t question it. She only knew that since she’d heard of her father’s horrible death she’d
dead, and this man was bringing her alive. Her tears forgotten, she opened her mouth under his, and she heard his sound of satisfaction as his tongue found hers. Linn’s head fell back in abandonment and he clasped her waist on either side, lifting her and setting her against a tree. With this support he fell against her, enveloping her with his body. Her hands fluttered down his back as he strained her closer, ever closer. She dug her fingers into his firm, muscular body helplessly, awash in a sea of sensation.
The man had no other thought but that he had to have her, right then, right there. He tore his mouth from hers and ducked his head to her breasts, nipping and teasing her through the cloth that covered her. Finally in frustration he pulled the gown off her shoulders and shoved it to her waist to clear his path. He took one rigid peak between his lips and covered the other with a large, caressing hand. She was small and his palm engulfed her. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and held his head against her, sliding her fingers into the wealth of hair at the back of his neck, then moving one hand to touch his as it massaged her sensitive flesh. The sensation was delicious; when he moved away from her she whimpered her loss.
Watching her face, the heavy-lidded eyes and full, parted lips, he slid his palms along her sides and pushed her gown above her knees. Linn clutched him, her head dropping to his shoulder in submission. He ran his hand up the inside of her thigh, pausing until she sighed and shifted her weight to accommodate him. Then, his control fleeing, he touched her and found her ready for him. She moaned as he stroked her, moving in a rhythm that was almost involuntary.