EARTH'S FALL is the story of Fall and Earth. Breda Larcon has the perfect life. There is nothing she lacks that money can't buy her – until her father passes away. In order to get her inheritance Breda will have to look beyond the superficial shell that she has worked very hard to create. Adam Donagh is no stranger to hard work. He knows that it takes blood, sweat, and tears to simply exist. Thriving comes second to surviving. When opposing forces meet, will Adam help Breda find her inner beauty or will his stubbornness and resistance to recreation leave them both as dried up as the fields that used to hold his crops?
Chapter 1 – Facade
When he saw her standing there in the middle of his field, she had her hand held up to the sky. Inside it was a little device that sparkled in the sunlight. If not for the four-inch heels that she was trying unsuccessfully to keep from sinking into the dirt, he would have thought that she was an apparition. But she wasn't a crop angel, and as much as he wanted to believe that her presence was directly related to the season quest, he simply couldn't believe that his soul mate had come in the way of the plastic-looking Barbie doll who had stepped straight out of some fancy magazine and was searching for a cell phone signal in the middle of what should have been his livelihood – so he didn't.
He didn't have to work very hard to shut off his fanciful notions. They weren't natural to him. Unless something was in front of him and tangible it simply didn't exist. Sighing, Adam Donagh took a few steps inward as he continued to watch her try to meet an unattainable goal. The proper thing to do would have been to inform her that Four Corners, as a whole, was void of cellular service, but something about her silent struggle made him want to look past her painted face and expensive-looking clothing – until she opened her mouth.
What kind of back-woods, no-name, trash-heap have I jumped into? She wondered. She saw a burly looking gentleman standing at the edge of the field, and she wondered for a moment if he would stop gawking for long enough to help her. Probably not. He probably couldn't even speak a single coherent sentence.
Putting on her most fabulous picture smile, she inched her way toward him. "I don't suppose you could point me in the direction of reception?"
"No service," Adam stated, raising a brow when her thickly painted lips curled downward. "No towers."
"Humph," she grunted before storming past him and toward the house.
It was bad enough that she had been made to go there in the first place. If she was going to be forced to leave Toronto, she would have preferred it to be to someplace tropical with sand and sun. Visiting Ireland wasn't her ideal vacation location. The fact that she couldn't even utilize her secondary lifeline had succeeded in tarnishing any fake enthusiasm she had mustered prior to the nine-hour flight, which was followed by a five-hour drive to the hole she had been tossed into.
Breda Larcon was no stranger to abundance, and the fact that her father had put that strain on her made her want to ball up her fists and throw a proper tantrum. Never mind that it had been the man's post-death request. She simply couldn't understand why her lawyer was forcing her to complete the purposeless act of meeting her biological maker.
Her dad was dead, and she had no desire to find a replacement in the washed-up cop that she hadn't even known existed until her real father passed away. The fact that her inheritance was in lock-down until she completed her father's wishes was absolutely ludicrous. She had spent nearly a year fighting with lawyer in toe to get out of the entire shamble. Eventually, she had realized that she would simply have to suck it up and would try her best to get the whole thing over and done with as quickly as she could so that she could get back to some degree of normalcy.
Of course, when she had finally caved and contacted the man, she had no idea that the meet and greet would have to come via an excursion that she had no desire to take. She couldn't understand why William Hayes couldn't just come back to Toronto as she had requested. The man was already a thorn in her side, and she hadn't even met him yet.
She needed to look past her frustration. The only way that she was going to get what she wanted was to put on a happy face and find some way to convince the stranger that the best thing for both of them would be for him to sign the stupid paper the lawyer had drafted up. His signature would mean that her life could continue as she wanted it to, and that was all that really mattered. She would simply have to suffer through the temporary inconvenience of dealing with the uncivilized lot until she got what she wanted. She always got what she wanted.
In fact, the only unlucky thing that had ever happened to her was when her father died. And really, even that hadn't destroyed her perfect life. She was still free to do and have anything that she wanted – until the letter had come stating the terms of her inheritance.
In order for her to get the millions of dollars that he had left for her, she would be required to meet the conditions he had set forth in his will. She had been far too furious with her father to bother grieving for him at that point.
Adam watched the woman stomp her way inside, wondering how she managed to put on such a show without falling flat on her face. He scratched his head and felt like skipping out on his evening chores to catch the theatrical show the girl would likely perform inside. The entertainment value would almost make it worth it.
Of course, he wouldn't do that. He was far too responsible and knew that his land depended on him to tend to it, despite its recent inability to give him the same consideration back. The fields, which used to be full of wheat, oats, and barley, were barren and had been for two summers. The land wasn't giving him what he needed. While they had hoped that with increased fertilization the bad go would be only a summer long, they had been wrong.
Adam had even sequestered the aid of Spring, by way of Killeen Adare, hoping that her abilities would make the crops grow, but even her special talent was shirked by the meddlesome dry-spell. It was like someone had come along and sucked up all the sustenance from the soil, and he was at a loss for how to get it back.
He started toward the barn and stopped when his mother called to him from the house. He cursed his feet for listening, because he had no choice but to acknowledge that she had spoken to him.
"Adam honey," Tally Donagh shouted. "Come on back to the house for a minute, dear."
Adam grumbled and did as he was told. He was pretty sure that whatever she wanted was going to set him back a few hours from his chores. He was equally certain that it was going to have something to do with the pampered princess that had tromped her way in there.
Just what I need, he thought. More of a headache.
The girl was going to be nothing but problems, and he had enough of his own that he didn't need any of hers.
He wiped his feet before entering the house. Normally he used the back door, but he was hoping that if he kept his boots on then he would be able to make a hasty exit.
"Adam," his mother began. "This is Breda Larcon. She'll be a guest here for a short time."
"Hiya," Adam said appropriately.
When he turned to leave, his mother started again. "She's the daughter of that fine policemen at the Sorley's place."
Adam really didn't know William all that well, but he was fairly certain he would have heard that he had a daughter. Moreover, he definitely couldn't see any resemblance. He seemed far too down-to-earth to produce a haughty snob like Breda.
Breda inhaled sharply at the mention of William Hayes being her father. It might have been technically true, but she was almost embarrassed to have had her position openly broadcasted in such a manner. Mustering up the strength to continue pleasantries, she decided that the best thing she could do was to try to feign friendliness toward the obviously sub-standard occupants of Four Corners.
"I'm sure I will have a lovely visit," If I can keep from tearing out my eyes because of the sight of this place. "I look forward to sight-seeing just as soon as I get a little business out of the way."
When the girl smiled, Adam had to blink as not to be blinded by her overly-white teeth. What his mother was hoping for was for Adam to offer himself up as a tour-guide, and he wasn't about to do that. He had serious things to do, and gallivanting around with some would-be-elite was not his idea of a responsible use of his time.
Tally Donagh was delighted to have the girl in her home. She seemed like a fine candidate for her desire to pair off her son. He wasn't getting any younger, and while he was handsome, his good-looks would fade over time. She wanted him to find himself a nice wife, and from what she could see Breda Larcon would make a dignified edition to the Donagh household.
"Adam," Tally persisted. "Would you be just a dear and see Breda to her room in the guest quarters. Once she is all settled, then I would like you to escort her to the Sorley homestead so that she can speak with William."
Adam bit the edges of his tongue to keep from arguing with his mother. What he wanted to tell her was that the spoiled little brat could carry her own baggage to her room, but he didn't dare sauce his mother. Sighing, he kicked off his boots and set himself to the task of carrying the luggage. He wasn't sure what constituted a short visit but he certainly couldn't imagine with the load she had brought that she planned to ever leave.
Breda vaguely acknowledged her surroundings while she followed the hulk of a man down the hallway. The place smelled like old air-fresheners. When they stopped in front of a ridiculously small room, Breda was sure that she had somehow died during her travel and was in purgatory. The room was barely big enough to be a sitting room, let alone a bedroom.
She looked around for her bathroom but was unable to locate it. "Where's the restroom?"
Adam sat down the two large suit-cases and pointed.
"You mean I have to share it with someone else?" she said, her eyes the size of saucers.
Adam scrunched his eyebrows together and tried to imagine on what planet the girl actually lived. He had heard of such places, but he had never actually met an alien before. Besides, he thought his family was pretty advanced since they actually had one bathroom per floor.
"It locks," Adam stated.
Her eyes lit up like the saucer she had likely landed in, and she shut the door swiftly in his face. He figured there would be many door-slammings in her future. As much as it ground on his nerves, he would ignore it – temporarily. Adam was quickly side-tracked by a sound that could only be described as a cow giving birth. Shaking his head, he moved toward the living room to wait for the wails to pass.
The drive to the Sorley house was quiet aside from the quick-clicking sound of her heels hitting the floor of his truck that had Farm Use painted on the sides. Adam wasn't sure why she couldn't walk the distance, but then again, her shoes didn't seem to serve a functional purpose.
Thankfully they were in between rain showers so he was able to roll the window down and breathe through the stink that she undoubtedly thought of as exquisite perfume. When she took the little bottle out of the giant bag she carried and pointed it at him, his hands gripped tighter to the steering wheel. She made a little face, tilted her head to the side, and put it back.
Breda wanted to spray the entire truck with her Caron's Poivre but couldn't bring herself to waste a single drop on the decrepit piece of machinery or its needing-a-shower driver. It would take more than a fresh scent to enhance her current atmosphere. Everything smelled dirty. She felt dirty just sitting there.
The house they entered had a different smell. While the sweet scent was far more appealing than the pasture-like odour in Adam's truck, she felt like she should run an additional ten kilometres on her treadmill just to burn off the extra calories she had ingested by breathing. A grey-haired woman who had eaten too much of her own baking came in from the kitchen to greet them.
"I'd be Caitlyn," she began, wiping her hands on her apron before extending one to Breda.
Breda smiled and dodged the hand-shake by reaching into her Fendi B bag for the paperwork. She wasn't interested in pleasantries but knew they were necessary. Her smile would have to make an adequate substitute for connection. She certainly didn't want to get contaminated though she was pretty sure that had already happened.
Everything she had brought with her would need to be dry-cleaned when she got back home – which couldn't happen quickly enough in her opinion. Her goal was to make the whole uncomfortable situation as short-lived as possible. She would slide in, smile, and slip out before they could suck the pretty out of her. Ugly was unfortunately contagious.
Adam watched the girl with the plastic smile and wondered what type of magic had been used to keep her face from conforming to the natural movement of her lips. The colour contrasted sharply to the crisp white suit but seemed an exact match to the strange purse she carried. Uncharacteristically, he gave her a survey from his position behind her and stopped to linger over the dirt that was likely not meant to accessorize her poorly chosen attire. Bright side – she had managed to clean his seat. That was probably the only thing she had ever done to benefit anyone in her entire life.
"Hello Caitlyn," Breda returned. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Why don't you come and sit down for a minute while I wet the tea," Caitlyn suggested.
Tea wasn't Breda's first choice. It meant that things weren't going to be as quick and painless as she had hoped. She pressed her eyes tightly together in an attempt to ward away the ensuing migraine.
She wasn't good at dealing with situations that didn't immediately meld to her will. For as long as she could remember, and likely from the time that she was born, Breda Larcon had gotten everything and anything that she had ever wanted. She had never been told no – until her father had died. It felt like all anyone wanted to tell her lately was no, and she was getting rather sick of the work that she had to put into getting her way. To avoid the no she actually had to exercise effort, and she wasn't impressed by that in the least.
"Could I trouble you to acquire William for me? I just have some quick paperwork for him to review, and then I will be out of your hair," Breda explained. "I certainly don't want to be a burden to you."
Caitlyn tried to read the girl. When William had told her that Breda was coming – and that she was his biological daughter – she had been unsure of how to react. William hadn't mentioned anything about having a child. Then again, he hadn't exactly known that he had a child. His ex-wife had left without telling him.
As far as Caitlyn could tell, there weren't any similarities between the high-class woman and her father, but genetics were a tricky thing. More than biology went into the making of a person, and it didn't altogether surprise Caitlyn to see no resemblance.
"Well, you aren't a bother at all," Caitlyn countered. "Adam, could you show her a seat while I get the tea?"
The Neanderthal grunted from behind her, and Breda jumped a little bit, half-expecting him to throw her over his shoulder and take her to the preferred location. He hadn't said anything more to her than a handful of two-word sentences since she had met him. The drive had been void of conversation entirely – not that she had really minded. He wasn't the strong-and-silent type; he was the uneducated-brain-dead type.
Adam was annoyed that he was playing chaperone when he had work to do. As far as he was concerned, every minute that passed was wasted by whatever business she had there.
Breda shoved the papers back into her bag and deliberately took the seat that was closest to the door. Adam didn't sit at all. He stood by the fireplace with his hands shoved into the pockets of his dirty jeans.
When Caitlyn came into the room with a tray meant to deliver the tea, Breda barely acknowledged her. Her hands were gripping the arms of the over-stuffed floral chair. She had managed to successfully hide her nerves to that point, but with every passing second her apprehension was growing. She wasn't nervous to meet him. She had no expectations of feeling some sense of kinship with the stranger. He meant nothing to her. He was merely a barricade between herself and what she wanted.
Hayes stood in the doorway and watched her. When the lawyer had called him to discuss the terms set out in Arthur Larcon's will, he had been completely thrown off course. His research had taken up the majority of his time, and he hadn't expected the news. Nor was he sure how to handle it. He decided that he would put it off until the girl arrived and take it from there.
She probably wasn't his anyway. She didn't look anything like him, but he could certainly see the resemblance of his ex-wife. That fact alone was enough to make him doubt his connection to the prissy girl messing up the fluff in Caitie's cushions.
"Breda," Caitlyn began. "This is William Hayes."
Breda stood from the chair and forced a smile. Be pleasant. Bright side – unlike Adam, he actually seemed to know what a bar of soap looked like.
"Hello Mr. Hayes," Breda said sweetly. "It's nice to meet you."
William nodded and motioned toward the kitchen. Breda followed and took her tea to the kitchen table.
Adam wasn't quite sure what to make of the introduction. He surprised himself by being curious about what they would discuss. Whatever it was involved the papers she had tried initially to dig out of the bag.
Caitlyn grinned at him and moved to stand beside him by the fireplace.
"She certainly is a looker," Caitlyn offered.
"Don't you try to play me for a fool, Adam Donagh," Caitlyn persisted. "You've been carting her around. I am sure you've stolen a glimpse or two."
"Yes ma'am," Adam returned.
"Well what do you think of her?" Caitlyn asked.
"I think that I have more important things to do than to cart around a show-pony."
"Fair enough," Caitlyn returned. "Let's go sit on the couch so that we can hear what they are saying."
Adam raised his brows, shocked a little that Miss Sorley would be so open about her eavesdropping.
"Well, you're not going to give me any dirt," she mused. "I'd like to know how well she will hold up her facade when he refuses to sign those papers she brought with her."
"What makes you think he won't sign them?" Adam asked.
"William never does things the easy way," Caitlyn returned. "Ask Aine sometime about the kind of lessons he gives."
Caitlyn raised a single finger to her lips, motioning him to be quiet. It didn't take long before the kitchen voices increased a level.
"What do you mean you won't sign it?" Breda asked, her voice rising in pitch.
Adam could almost hear her teeth grinding in her mouth to keep from saying what was really on her mind. He found guilty pleasure in her frustration. Sure, it was a little juvenile, but he felt like since she was keeping him from his chores that he might as well get some entertainment value out of his free time.
"Surely you understand the consequence of me signing a legal document with no evidence to support that I am your father," Hayes rebutted.
"Fine," she said, the level of civility nearly gone from her tone. "How long will it take?"
"Shouldn't be more than two weeks," Hayes replied. "Depending on the post, really."
"Two weeks to you might not seem like a long time, Mr. Hayes, but I have a life that I am looking forward to getting back to."
"No one is keeping you here," Hayes returned.
"Of course not," Breda said flatly.
What she didn't tell him was that until he signed the paperwork, her accounts were all in a frozen state. While she intended to get what she wanted, she would not embarrass her status by grovelling.
"Think of this as an extended vacation from whatever it is that you do," he offered.
Hayes was hoping that she might shed some light into what exactly it was that she did. He had spent a good month avoiding curiosity and had taken great lengths not to use his connection with the police force to invade her personal life. He was determined to fish for information in his own way, and he was more determined to get that information from the source.
"A vacation?" she huffed. "A vacation is somewhere in the Caribbean with a margarita in one hand and an island hottie holding the other."
Sitting at the table with her was very difficult. It brought back too many memories of the life that he might have had if Carolyn hadn't left. But she did leave, and she took with her someone he hadn't even known existed. Would it have changed anything? If she had told him the truth would it have altered his life in any way?
"I didn't say an exotic vacation," Hayes countered.
"And what do you suggest I do with my time while I am here?" Breda persisted.
"Entertain yourself," Hayes replied.
If he was sure of anything, it was that the girl had been spoiled – possibly beyond repair. He was torn between wanting to get to know her better and wanting to completely ignore her until the lab results came back confirming that he was, in fact, her father.
"Look at the bright side," he suggested. "In two weeks you can have your life back. The results won't change that either way. If I'm your dad, I will sign the papers. If I'm not, well you won't need me to."
That didn't sound like a bright side to Breda at all – it sounded like an extended stay in purgatory, and she was seriously unimpressed. Her proprietary facade completely crumbled.
"That you may be right about," Breda said smartly. "But you will never be my dad. I'm not here for a chance to get to know someone I have missed for the duration of my life, Mr. Hayes. I'm perfectly content with how things ended up. If you are hoping those results – and waiting for them – will appease some sick curiosity you have about procreating, you will be sorely mistaken when you find out that blood is only that. It can be spilled, it can be cleaned up, and it can be replaced. My father was more than an adequate replacement for you."
"How can someone so pretty have so much ugly inside her," Caitlyn whispered.
Adam wasn't sure where Miss Sorley got that notion anyway. All he saw was a clown who wore too much face-paint and wasn't at all funny. She was downright mean.
"I'm going to go outside for a spell," Caitlyn suggested. "I don't think my heart can stand to watch Autumn fall apart."
"Autumn?" Adam asked, narrowing his eyes.
"Well surely you didn't think this happened by chance," Caitlyn returned. "She's got to be a part of the breaking the curse. Fate wouldn't have sent her otherwise."
Adam wasn't sure what he thought of the curse. He had made two friends through the process – two very apparently magical friends – but his beliefs in fairy-tales and happy endings had left him in childhood. All that remained were the never-ending days that ended with sleeps that were dreamless because of exhaustion.
Sighing, he put thought behind him and moved to sit on the couch. He leaned his head back and decided to make the most of his remaining moments away from his work. He closed his eyes, and as he always did when he stopped moving, he slept.
Facade had been busy for years, and he was very tired. Autumn had spent so much time building up her false front, that he wasn't altogether sure that there was anything behind it anymore. She had gotten so good at masking herself that she had forgotten that it was a mask to begin with. Earth could chisel it away – he had the tools for it – but would he ever want to? Earth didn't have the added time that it would take, and while he certainly didn't lack determination, he needed Ambition.