Home > Peppermint Bark (The Dogmothers #7)

Peppermint Bark (The Dogmothers #7)
Author: Roxanne St. Claire


Chapter One



Waterford Farm, 1977



“Ouch! I think you actually drew blood with that one.” Colleen Kilcannon reached up to rub the spot on her head that her mother had just jabbed with a bobby pin.

“Oh hush, lass.” Mom brushed her hand away and met Colleen’s gaze in the vanity mirror. “Haven’t you ever heard that beauty is pain?”

“I’ve never seen it embroidered on one of your pillows, Mom.”

“Should be. But the truth is that anythin’ worth havin’ means a little pinch now and again.” She slid the pin in again, getting the curl to fall into place. “And this gorgeous Irish hair is gonna be the prettiest at the international ball.”

“Prom,” Colleen corrected, fighting a smile. “It’s not a ball, just the Bitter Bark High prom. And the theme of Around the World in 180 Minutes doesn’t make it international.”

But nice, Colleen thought. Tim McIntosh, her date—maybe boyfriend by the end of the night?—was the first boy she’d ever known who wanted to see the whole world as much as she did. They even joked about being a pilot and a stewardess after high school. Well, Tim might be joking, but not Colleen.

She was going to be a stewardess, and she would see every country in the world before she turned thirty. Hey, a girl had to dream, right?

Colleen leaned closer to the mirror to examine the makeup she so rarely wore. If she was going to be flying the friendly skies, she better know how to apply these unfamiliar cosmetics.

“Do you think I need more green eye shadow?”

Her mother snorted. “You know what the Irish say.”

Colleen rolled her eyes, sometimes wishing Finola Kilcannon would not answer everything with an Irish proverb. “Green eye shadow is only for leprechauns?” she guessed, making them both laugh.

“‘Beauty is only skin-deep, but nobody wants to drown.’” She gave a slight chuckle.

“So less is more. Got it.”

“Now sit tight, lass, and let me finish this last curl.”

Outside the bedroom window, the late-afternoon sky turned even more ominous than it’d been all day, and the first fat drops of rain smacked against the slanted roof of the big farmhouse.

“Donchya be worryin’,” Mom assured her, her thick brogue barely understandable around the bobby pin in her mouth.

“Rain will ruin my hair and make the prom pictures terrible,” Colleen said, sneaking a peek as thunder rolled in the distance.

Her mother took the last pin from between her lips and slid it into place, fussing with part of her hair that was pulled up, then cascading the rest over the shoulders of the long dress sewn especially for the occasion of the prom.

“That’s an early-summer storm that will blow over before your lad comes a callin’ for ya.” She fluffed the sleeves a little. “This chiffon did turn out so nice, donchya think?”

Very slowly, Colleen pushed the vanity stool back, standing to look at the whole impact, smoothing the layer of sheer turquoise material dotted with white and yellow daisies.

“I love it, Mom.”

“Even though it’s homemade? I know lots of lassies spend money on fancy store dresses, but…”

Colleen turned and looked into her mother’s blue eyes. “Honestly? I’m a junior in high school who got asked to the senior prom. I’m thrilled to have this dress.”

“You’re a sweet one, lass.” Her mother looked up at her, touching her chin lightly. “And pretty as the day is long. Aptly named, sweet Colleen.”

She smiled, but gasped when she caught sight of a bolt of lightning out the window, followed less than five seconds later by a crack of thunder.

“Whoa, that’s close,” Colleen said.

From out in the hall, Murphy barked and scratched at the door they’d closed when she’d dressed.

“Ohhh, Murph,” Mom cooed, letting him in. “’Tis a storm, that’s all.”

The red setter came trotting in, turned in a circle exactly three times, then shot straight under Colleen’s bed and whined.

“He has spoken to the storm gods,” Colleen joked.

“Every time there’s a loud noise or a full house,” her mother agreed, walking to the window.

Colleen followed, peering out at the ominous clouds over rolling hills. She caught sight of her father herding the farm dogs into the barn, getting them to safety as the rain picked up.

“You’re right, though. ’Tis a close storm, lass. Let’s go downstairs, then, and when your da dries off, we can show him how pretty you look.”

Just as they reached the bottom of the stairs, a blinding flash of white and a simultaneous clap of thunder nearly made Colleen lose her balance in her heels. It felt like chills danced over her whole body, and the lights from the living room and kitchen flickered once, twice, then went out completely.

“Sweet Saint Patrick,” her mother muttered. “I hope Seamus is still in the barn.”

“Did we lose power?” Colleen asked, gripping the banister and suddenly forgetting everything but this storm, which felt like it was directly over them.

“Finnie!” Dad’s booming voice echoed from the kitchen, the door slamming behind him. “I got the outside dogs, but I think the house has been hit!”

“Oh dear.” Mom put her hands over her mouth and closed her eyes, no doubt praying before reacting. “’Tis fine,” she called to her husband, always the calm one of the two.

“’Tis not,” he yelled back, coming into the hall, his eyes kind of wild and panicked as he threw a rain jacket on the coat tree, water pouring off of it to the floor. “I know when a house is struck by lightning, and this one has been.”

“Are ya sure?” Mom asked.

“You two stay in the kitchen, away from the windows, and I’ll check around and make sure there’s nothin’ on fire.” He hustled past them, barely slowing his step. “You look fine, Collie.”

And that was high praise from Seamus Kilcannon. “Thanks. Murphy’s under my bed, Dad,” she said as he started up the stairs.

“Sure, sure. I’ll get him.” A strong man, he took the steps two at a time, and then Colleen and her mother exchanged a look.

Mom put her hand on Colleen’s cheek, no doubt sensing her growing distress. “The storm will pass, your Highlander will come, and you’ll get a glorious picture with a rainbow behind you. ‘The storm is the artist, but the rainbow is his masterpiece.’”

Your Highlander. Colleen smiled as she smoothed the back of her dress and sat at the table where they ate every meal. Since she’d started dating Tim McIntosh, the sweet, quiet senior boy in her social studies class, Mom had called him Highlander, thanks to the Scottish last name.

“I wish Daniel were here,” Colleen said on a sigh, always missing her older brother, who lived in town while he attended the local college. “He said he’d try to come home to see me in my dress.”

Mom’s eyes widened with a don’t get your hopes up look. “I think he had another date with Annie.” She slid off the glasses she’d recently started wearing for closeup things like sewing and reading and styling hair. “She’s a fine lass.”

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