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Chapter 1 - In The Beginning  Continued

  What am I doing? Hazel Thaxton thought as she put the phone

down and then quickly picked it up again.

“What kind of mother in my position would do what I’m about to

do? My poor baby is in such pain over this! I’ve never seen her like

this. I need to end this once and for all!”

She waited for a few seconds.

  “Ian Madigan’s room, please,” she said when a voice answered her.

This was the hard part. The moment of truth had now arrived.

When she heard his voice on the phone, she knew that now was the

time to take action. She didn’t know what to do, but something

indeed had to be done.

  “Good morning, Ian. This is Mrs. Thaxton, Elise’s mother.”

With that, Ian rose straight up in bed and frantically blinked his

eyes to make sure he was actually awake.

  “Well top o’ tha morning ta ya, ma’am! Ta what do I owe this

unexpected pleasure?” His accent was much thicker than she remembered, and his voice

sounded so warm and friendly that it made her smile on the other

end of the phone.

  “Ian, meet me at the bakery today at 11:00 for lunch. My husband

will be out on business, and I need to talk to you privately.”

He knew it must concern Elise or she wouldn’t be calling.

  “I’ll see ya there. Thank ya for calling. Goodbye.”

As she hung up, Mr. Thaxton emerged from the bathroom with a

smile.

  “I’ll try not to be gone too long today. I know I should be back

before the evening rush.” He kissed her and started getting dressed. In a few minutes her

husband was out of the door.

  Meanwhile Ian muttered, “This is bad. I just know it tis! Elise has

told her about me. She’s tired o’ seeing me. What a bloke I’ve been! I

mean she told me ta leave her alone, but I just couldn’t and now her

mother wants ta see me. I’ve offended their entire household! Well,

it’s better than having ta face her father. He’s huge! Well, I’ll have ta

be a man about it and take it in stride.” Ian declared as he hopped

into the shower and prepared for the lunch of a lifetime.

  The clock on the wall of the bakery read 10:50 when the door

opened and in stepped an eager Ian with a nervous smile like never

before. Mrs. Thaxton glanced at the clock and then at his electric

smile, and it was clear how he had begun to melt her daughter’s icy

heart. He walked up to the counter where she stood.

  “Good morning, Mrs. Thaxton. How are ya? Thank ya again for

inviting me.”  Ian didn’t know what to expect, but he was ready for anything,

well almost.

  “My, aren’t you early? I had a feeling you would be.Why don’t you

sit down, and I’ll bring our lunch. We have some talking to do!”

She turned her back and busied herself with the food, but not

before raising her eyebrows at him. His heart immediately fell to the

bottom of his stomach! His throat went dry, and his palms began to

sweat.  It’s over, he thought. I can feel it! Just take it like a man, and don’t

let her see ya sweat, he thought to himself. Ian took a seat at a booth

and tried to remain calm. Before he could gather himself together,

Mrs. Thaxton appeared at the table with fresh squeezed lemonade.

This time Ian followed her and brought the sandwiches to the table.

This surprised his hostess, and she gave an inward smile.

  “Everything looks so good,” he stated trying to keep her from seeing

how nervous he was. She was pleased by his willingness to help

when he brought the food to the table. She watched him silently.

  “Thank you, Ian.”

As they sat down to eat, Ian touched his plate, but was soon distracted

by the softness of her hand on his. He glanced up as panic

filled his being and his stomach did back-flips!

  “Would you like to bless the food?” Mrs. Thaxton asked him as he

smiled nervously.

  “Uh, uh, aye, ma’am.”

He was really on the spot now! He summoned all of the courage

he could muster as he closed his eyes while she did the same. Fear

engulfed him, but he knew he had to conquer it somehow. He wiped

his sweaty palms on his pants a time or two, but nothing seemed to

help. He didn’t know what to say, so he said what he knew.

  “Lord, we thank ya for this food and bless tha gracious hostess

and her lovely daughter. Bless us all. Amen.”

He tried not to show it, but he was extremely nervous. He didn’t

want to look foolish in front of Mrs. Thaxton. After that unexpected

task was over, he tried his best to calm down and wait for her to

begin talking. Only seconds had passed, but it seemed like hours.

Finally, the silence was broken.

  “Ian, the reason I’ve asked you here today is to stop this madness!

I can no longer stand to see my daughter like this. Whenever you’re

around, it’s like trying to mix oil and water. After all of the times

she’s turned you down, why do you keep coming back? I’ve never

seen a man try as hard to win a woman’s affection as you’ve tried to

win hers.”  Ian took a sip of his lemonade before answering the question of a

lifetime.

  “From tha first moment I saw Elise, I felt something surge

through me tha likes o’ which I’ve never known before. It was like I

put ma finger in a light socket. It was so powerful and so strong, and

I could see it in her eyes and I knew she felt it too! She just doesn’t

want ta give me a chance. I understand about the color issue, but ma

eyes see only her. She’s the most beautiful, vibrant woman I’ve ever

seen in ma whole life, and Ireland has its share of beauties, but none

can compare ta her! Ma heart is colorblind and so am I. If I could tell

ma heart ta stop caring about her because ma skin isn’t the same

color as hers, I would, but it just isn’t that simple. My heart has a

mind o’ its own. I need her in ma life, Mrs. Thaxton, and I’m not

ashamed ta admit it either.”

  Ian stared intensely into her eyes as he poured out his soul to her.

She felt compassion for him, especially since she knew that Elise felt

the same way too. As she listened to his plight, it was evident how

strong his feelings were for her daughter, so she came to a decision.

  “Elise does have feelings for you, and that’s the only reason why

I’m doing this. But she has to come to terms with the past first. Let

me explain. Her closest friend, Gail, met a man, a white man named

Kurt. They began seeing each other, and soon it became so unbearable

for her, because people always told her they didn’t belong

together. He promised his undying love and marriage, but somehow

he was different. He never came around until dark, and it seemed he

was uneasy whenever they were together. I had a really bad feeling

about him from the beginning, but Gail didn’t listen to me. She said

she knew what she was doing. Anyway, Gail tried to make it work,

but soon he broke it off before any wedding plans were made, but

not before he
knew her in the biblical sense, so to speak.”

  Ian’s eyebrows raised in complete shock. He then looked away

from Mrs. Thaxton’s gaze. He felt as if she thought he was going to

try to do the same thing to her daughter as well. She continued as Ian

shook his head silently in anger at the sad turn of events.

  “Gail was deeply hurt, and Elise was there to pick up the pieces.

She has never forgotten the toll it took on her either.”

Ian didn’t want to interrupt his hostess, but something had to be

said. He was fuming! That snake should have felt tha backside o’ a whip! Her father

should have skinned him alive! I’d kill a man if he even looked at

Elise wrong! Ian thought as he tried to restrain himself, because he

had to make his feelings known. He couldn’t believe this. His face

grew red with rage at the thought of something like this happening

to the woman he loved. True, he was a womanizer in every sense of

the word, but he never lied to get his way.

  The women he was with always knew exactly what they were getting,

which was the time of their lives with no strings attached. It was

merely a physical encounter and nothing more. He went on his way

and they did the same, but here was a man who used a woman by

promising love, but giving only heartache instead. To make matters

worse, he tossed her away like a dirty rag once he got what he

wanted.  

 She prided herself on being a good judge of character, after all she did

Right now she's torn between her emotions and trying to preserve

her lifestyle as she knows it. She realizes that if she gets involved with

you, her whole way of life will change, and that's what frightens her

and myself as well."

  “This snake ya call Kurt should have felt tha backside o’ a whip! I

hate tha lot o’ his kind! I’d never behave improperly with Elise, but

I’d hurt anyone who did! Now that is a promise,” Ian stated boldly as

she looked at him. His sincerity shone through and she knew he really cared. She

prided herself on being a good judge of character, after all she did

warn Gail about Kurt. Just as she could see through Kurt’s “so-called”

declaration of love, she could tell Ian was if nothing else honest.

Yet she didn’t want to be the catalyst that brought them together,

but somehow she found herself doing just that!

  “I want her to take the opportunity to explore her feelings for you.

Right now she’s torn between her emotions and trying to preserve

her lifestyle as she knows it. She realizes that if she gets involved with

you, her whole way of life will change, and that’s what frightens her

and myself as well.”  What’s from the heart reaches the heart, and she could tell that he

was genuine. She’d already made up her mind this morning when

she called him on the phone and now she gazed directly into his eyes.

With a serious look and without batting an eye, she raised her left

eyebrow at him.

 What's from the heart reaches the heart, and she could tell that he 

was genuine. She'd already made up her mind this morning when

she called him on the phone and now she gazed directly into his eyes.

With a serious look and without batting an eye, she raised her left

eyebrow at him.

  "I'm going to help you, Ian, because I can see how hard all of this

is for my daughter, and this will enable her to make a decision one

way or another. Come back around closing with a single red rose and

a poem that you've written especially for her. When you recite it, let

your eyes speak to hers before she can refuse. Give her your best

smile and she'll change her mind, because I will have already spoken

to her. She loves poetry."

Ian smiled and for the first time he felt he actually stood a chance

with her. He always knew there had to be another reason why he

couldn't gain any ground with her. She'd seen firsthand why she

should stay away from him. He was determined to prove that he was

different. To her, he was not to be trusted. If he was the least bit like

Kurt, he was a liar who would only break her heart and ruin her reputation,

if she gave him the chance but she wouldn't! The difference

between him and Kurt was that Kurt was only out for what he could

get at any cost, while Ian was after Elise. Ian wanted and needed her,

all of her. He loved the way she smile, and the way she smelled of

fresh strawberries and even the way she shook her finger at him in

that disapproving manner of hers. Whenever he thought of the effect she had on him, he chuckled.

He liked everything about this woman, so he had to make her see he

was not another Kurt.

  "I'll bring tha pictures I've been taking o' her. She might like them

because I certainly do! At this point, I'm willing ta give anything a

try. Thank ya so much. Ya don't know what this means ta me!"

  He left feeling confident for the first time since he met her. When

Elise came in to work, she put on her apron as usual and was greeted

by her mother's kiss on the cheek to which she naturally reciprocated.

  "You know, I still can't get over that young man popping up like

that at church last week. He must really be serious to do that. The

flowers alone must have cost a pret-ty penny! Then he poured out

his heart in those letters to you. I've never seen a more determined

man except maybe your father, that is."

Her mother smiled and so did Elise.

  "Why he keeps coming back time after time is beyond me. I've

embarrassed him or tried to, but nothing seems to work on that

crazy Irishman! Mama, I have to tell you something," Elise declared,

lowering her voice for fear that if anyone ever heard, nothing would

ever be the same for her again. Her mother nodded anxiously as Elise

moved closer to her.

  "Mama, I do feel something for him. He seems so honest and so

different, but yet so, so, oh, I don't know what he is, but there's

something that intrigues me about him." Elise stood there silently as a smile covered her lips.

  "Well, give it a chance to see what develops. If you have something

in common, okay. And if not, you'll never ask yourself what would

have happened if you had only given it a chance. Just keep your mind

open and be true to yourself, because only you can say who will

make you happy. If I know our Mr. Madigan, he'll be back."