Born in Shame Page 1

Author: Nora Roberts

Series: Bone Island Trilogy #3

Genres: Romance


Amanda dreamed dreadful dreams. Colin was there, his sweet, well-loved face crushed with sorrow. Mandy, he said. He never called her anything but Mandy. His Mandy, my Mandy, darling Mandy. But there’d been no smile in his voice, no laugh in his eyes.

Mandy, we can’t stop it. I wish we could. Mandy, my Mandy, I miss you so. But I never thought you’d have to come so soon after me. Our little girl, it’s so hard for her. And it’ll get harder. You have to tell her, you know.

He smiled then, but it was sad, so sad, and his body, his face, that had seemed so solid, so close that she’d reached out in sleep to touch him, began to fade and shimmer away.

You have to tell her, he repeated. We always knew you would. She needs to know where she comes from. Who she is. But tell her, Mandy, tell her never to forget that I loved her. I loved my little girl.

Oh, don’t go, Colin. She moaned in her sleep, pining for him. Stay with me. I love you, Colin. My sweet Colin. I love you for all you are.

But she couldn’t bring him back. And couldn’t stop the dream.

Oh, how lovely to see Ireland again, she thought, drifting like mist over the green hills she remembered from so long ago. See the river gleam, like a ribbon all silver and bright around a gift without price.

And there was Tommy, darling Tommy, waiting for her. Turning to smile at her, to welcome her.

Why was there such grief here, when she was back and felt so young, so vibrant, so in love?

I thought I’d never see you again. Her voice was breathless, with a laugh on the edges of it. Tommy, I’ve come back to you.

He seemed to stare at her. No matter how she tried, she could get no closer than an arm span away from him. But she could hear his voice, as clear and sweet as ever.

I love you, Amanda. Always. Never has a day passed that I haven’t thought of you, and remembered what we found here.

He turned in her dream to look out over the river where the banks were green and soft and the water quiet.

You named her for the river, for the memory of the days we had.

She’s so beautiful, Tommy. So bright, so strong. You’d be proud.

I am proud. And how I wish . . . But it couldn’t be. We knew it. You knew it. He sighed, turned back. You did well for her, Amanda. Never forget that. But you’re leaving her now. The pain of that, and what you’ve held inside all these years, makes it so hard. You have to tell her, give her her birthright. And let her know, somehow let her know that I loved her. And would have shown her if I could.

I can’t do it alone, she thought, struggling out of sleep as his image faded away. Oh, dear God, don’t make me do it alone.

“Mom.” Gently, though her hands shook, Shannon stroked her mother’s sweaty face. “Mom, wake up. It’s a dream. A bad dream.” She understood what it was to be tortured by dreams, and knew how to fear waking—as she woke every morning now afraid her mother would be gone. There was desperation in her voice. Not now, she prayed. Not yet. “You need to wake up.”

“Shannon. They’re gone. They’re both of them gone. Taken from me.”

“Ssh. Don’t cry. Please, don’t cry. Open your eyes now, and look at me.”

Amanda’s lids fluttered open. Her eyes swam with grief. “I’m sorry. So sorry. I did only what I thought right for you.”

“I know. Of course you did.” She wondered frantically if the delirium meant the cancer was spreading to the brain. Wasn’t it enough that it had her mother’s bones? She cursed the greedy disease, and cursed God, but her voice was soothing when she spoke. “It’s all right now. I’m here. I’m with you.”

With an effort Amanda drew a long, steadying breath. Visions swam in her head—Colin, Tommy, her darling girl. How anguished Shannon’s eyes were—how shattered they had been when she’d first come back to Columbus.

“It’s all right now.” Amanda would have done anything to erase that dread in her daughter’s eyes. “Of course you’re here. I’m so glad you’re here.” And so sorry, darling, so sorry I have to leave you. “I’ve frightened you. I’m sorry I frightened you.”

It was true—the fear was a metallic taste in the back of her throat, but Shannon shook her head to deny it. She was almost used to fear now; it had ridden on her back since she’d picked up the phone in her office in New York and been told her mother was dying. “Are you in pain?”

“No, no, don’t worry.” Amanda sighed again. Though there was pain, hideous pain, she felt stronger. Needed to, with what she was about to face. In the few short weeks Shannon had been back with her, she’d kept the secret buried, as she had all of her daughter’s life. But she would have to open it now. There wasn’t much time. “Could I have some water, darling?”

“Of course.” Shannon picked up the insulated pitcher near the bed, filled a plastic glass, then offered the straw to her mother.

Carefully she adjusted the back of the hospital-style bed to make Amanda more comfortable. The living room in the lovely house in Columbus had been modified for hospice care. It had been Amanda’s wish, and Shannon’s, that she come home for the end.

There was music playing on the stereo, softly. The book Shannon had brought into the room with her to read aloud had fallen where she’d dropped it in panic. She bent to retrieve it, fighting to hold on.

When she was alone, she told herself there was improvement, that she could see it every day. But she had only to look at her mother, see the graying skin, the lines of pain, the gradual wasting, to know better.

There was nothing to do now but make her mother comfortable, to depend, bitterly, on the morphine to dull the pain that was never completely vanquished.

She needed a minute, Shannon realized as panic began to bubble in her throat. Just a minute alone to pull her weary courage together. “I’m going to get a nice cool cloth for your face.”

“Thank you.” And that, Amanda thought as Shannon hurried away, would give her enough time, please God, to choose the right words.

Chapter One

Amanda had been preparing for this moment for years, knowing it would come, wishing it wouldn’t. What was fair and right to one of the men she loved was an injustice to the other, whichever way she chose.

But it was neither of them she could concern herself with now. Nor could she brood over her own shame.