Authors: Debora Geary
Swordfights & Lullabies
by Debora Geary
Copyright 2013 Debora Geary
June 17. Celtic Diva.
She was so beautiful.
And even as he yearned for the beyond-tour days that would come very soon, Marcus’s heart ached for the woman playing on the stage. She would miss this. No matter how much her heart desired a life in a tiny Nova Scotia fishing village—and to his eternal astonishment, it really did—leaving this was going to tear at her.
Cassidy Farrell had been born for this.
A familiar presence slid into the box seat beside him. “She’s doin’ good.” Tommy surveyed the concert hall with professional eyes.
If he was looking for empty seats, there were none to be found. “She’s magnificent. She always is.” That didn’t begin to describe the defiant, vibrant genius of Cassidy Farrell. Words were puny in the face of the magic she and Rosie made together.
“She’s ready to go,” said Tommy quietly.
Marcus had been prepared to hate Cass’s manager, and his first impressions hadn’t changed that intent any. Tommy was big city, brash, immune to scowls, and bossier than a herd of witches. Unfortunately for Marcus, two pesky facts had interfered with his plans.
Tommy had taken one look at Morgan and fallen into instant, gooey love.
And he considered Cassidy Farrell family—in the deep, abiding sense that Italians and the Irish had in common.
Marcus had been helpless to resist either. And somewhere over a game of pool about halfway through the tour, he’d even come so far as to consider the man a friend. “It’s still going to be hard. She loves this.”
“Yeah.” And for all his tough-guy exterior, the man from New Jersey knew his fiddler. “She’ll be okay. And there will still be some gigs—the Kennedy Center in November, and I got a line on a thing in Berkeley for August.”
Four big shows a year, by decree of the Irish witch on the stage. Just enough to keep her and Tommy from sinking into decrepit retirement.
All of which was cover for the real reason.
Marcus had quietly, immovably insisted that she play them. For the sake of the man who had become his friend and the woman who lit his days, and for something bigger than all of them—he didn’t want the world to forget her.
Tommy glanced at his phone. “Gail says Morgan’s asleep.” His wife had laid claim to the tour’s lavender-eyed mascot for the evening and held off all upstart contenders.
There had been quite a few. The tour mascot was ridiculously popular.
Marcus smiled wryly. Learning to share his child hadn’t been a choice the last three months. “She should be—she ran wild today.” Morgan had spent most of the afternoon bouncing around the concert hall in shrieking glee, hanging on to the hair of whichever of Cass’s road crew had hoisted her onto their shoulders.
His girl was going to miss all this too.
The only heart that would be purely glad to be going home was his. He ignored the twinges of friendship and fledgling traveler that said otherwise.
It was time for three pebbles to be headed back to their beach.
Rosie’s notes were pulling on him again, calling him out of his reverie and back into the present. An audience of thousands—and it always felt like she spoke directly to his heart. Over the last three months, when she tugged, he’d learned to come.
Soul lifting, he tuned out Tommy and the crowd and the bright lights and technical wizardry spotlighting the performance on stage. Pushed aside melancholy and the ever-present yearning for home.
And saw only his Cass.
Her last big gig.
The final performances of every tour were always tinged with melancholy—and in recent years, a quiet exhale. Cassidy Farrell, feeling her mortality.
Cass grinned and leaned into Rosie’s notes a little more. Celtic music wasn’t light on melancholy or mortality or anything else. Just one of the many reasons she loved it so.
The stage lights were extra bright tonight—she could barely make out the faces in the front row. Just shadows.
But always now, one presence held her steady. A quiet, gentle link, more sensed than felt, from the man who had not missed a single note in three months. Holding steady for her final exhale.
She shifted from reel to ballad, knowing her fingers were in fine form tonight. Slowly she walked to the front of the stage, bathed in the focus of a single spotlight. A Celtic warrior, music as her cape, Rosie as her sword.
The ballad’s notes were deceptively simple, played by uninspired student musicians the world over. Butchered by most.
Rosie found the heart of each note. Joy and sorrow and the aching knowledge that tomorrows became yesterdays all too quickly. And the answer, weaving through the music, insistent on being heard.
Live for today.
Notes she’d played a thousand times. Believing, deeply, in their message. But today, on the cusp of Cassidy Farrell’s new life, she felt more. More of tomorrows and yesterdays, holding hands with the living of today. Today still mattered—but it was no longer everything. A new message for her audience.
And for the one who played.
She’d spent the last three months holding hands with a man hesitant to trust the simple joys of today. Had delighted in tempting him with walks in the sun and rambles on the beach and lazy afternoon treasure hunts for a bit of frippery for Morgan’s hair. And somewhere in the doing, he’d taught her of yesterday and tomorrow.
Cass brought the ballad to a close, barely hearing the thundering applause, and reached out for his mind. He insisted his magic was futile in crowds this size. A wisp lost in a galaxy. But it comforted her to seek anyhow.
She could feel her magic thrumming and tamped it down. It wasn’t meant for audiences this big.
She loved the stage and always would—but Cassidy Farrell, witch, was learning that her magic worked best in pubs and parlors. On a human scale. Nights like tonight were for the performer.
And so, she would perform. Cass ran her fingers up Rosie’s fingerboard and launched into her violin’s name song.
This was Rosie’s last big concert too—time to show off a little.
Or, knowing her fiddle, time to bring the house to its feet.
June 18. Family.
Marcus stared at his daughter, one bowl of broccoli defiantly upturned on her head, cheesy sauce already sliding down her cheeks. And glared at Cassidy, who was doing her damnedest not to laugh. “This is all your fault.”
The woman he seemed doomed to love gave up all pretense at seriousness, melting into a puddle of laughter that amused their assembled audience at least as much as his stubborn girlchild. “How do you figure?”
He aimed one last glare before starting the delicate process of disarming his daughter. “You’re the one who decided a good home-cooked meal was in order.”
“I don’t feed guests hamburgers.” Just one of the many odd rules on a Cassidy Farrell tour. She might subsist on burgers, ramen noodles, and worse much of the time, but guests merited home cooking, even if it got put together on the entirely insufficient single burner on the bus. At least today they’d had a proper stove to work with.
Tommy snorted, arm around his wife. “You feed us burgers all the time.”
Cass crouched down to pick up broccoli bits off the floor. “You’re not guests.”
“We aren’t either.” Lizzie offered her two cents in between bites of rice and beans. “And girls don’t like broccoli.”
“Some of us like it just fine,” said Moira, holding up a somewhat wilted tree on her fork.
Marcus picked the largest pieces out of his daughter’s curls. It was so strange, this entirely temporary life in a rental house in a state redolent with history that wasn’t his. So much of home managed to sneak in anyhow.
He pushed down his mental wanderings. The broccoli was breaking into tiny bits in Morgan’s hair, and his woolgathering wasn’t improving matters any. Ah, well. At least they weren’t on the bus. Cleaning Morgan up in the minute cubicle that passed for the bus’s shower had made him yearn more than once for the clanky old bathtub of their Nova Scotia cottage. Marcus reached for a washcloth, fairly certain he was only going to make things worse.
His daughter grinned up at him, well aware she was the center of his world.
Of their world.
Cass reached for the washcloth. “I think you’d better get a second one.” She tickled Morgan’s cheek. “Someone’s got cheese sauce on her toes, too.”
Ye gods and little fishes. Marcus unstrapped his girl from the booster seat, already resigned to cheese sauce on his last pair of clean pants.
“I’ve got her.” Cass winked and scooped up the wiggly toddler. “I have at least one more pair of jeans around here somewhere.”
Marcus gripped the back of the chair. It was the random moments that got him hardest. The ones where love snuck in and flattened him and he never even got a chance to breathe.
He wasn’t alone now. In the small, daily things that mattered so very much, he wasn’t alone.
His green-eyed witch watched him, love shining in her eyes. She always knew.
“Eww,” said Lizzie, thoroughly disgusted. “I think they’re gonna kiss.”
Marcus’s red face amused Moira—but the lovely peck he dropped on Cass’s cheek brought the house down. Modest, by Irish standards, but for Marcus Buchanan, that was as big an announcement as a Las Vegas billboard.
Nan, in from Ireland for her own helping of broccoli, chuckled as Morgan planted a messy hand on Marcus’s shirt. “The little one wants a kiss too.”
Her father only looked down at the cheesy fingerprints and sighed.
Cass turned and eyed Moira, mischief in her eyes. “I do believe Gran hasn’t held her yet.”
They day would come when they were no longer young and silly and bothered by a little cheese sauce. Moira held out her arms. “It takes more than a little broccoli to scare me off.” She held the squirming wee girl in her arms and soaked in the truth of what had transpired in this little house on a strange beach in a strange land.