Prologue

The last scream faded into the night at three o'clock. The doctor shook his gray head, his weary eyes looking to Alec Gallagher. "She's gone." The doctor whispered, lifting the stillborn infant away and handing it to a nearby nurse to whisk away. Alec straightened his broad, but tired shoulders as he stared down at his pale wife.

"Leave us be." His whisper was full of despair and proudly stifled tears. The doctor left with a sigh, shutting the door quietly behind him. Alec kneeled down by his dead wife, resting his head on her still-warm shoulder and wept.

Layla Gallagher stood by the casket, looking so old for her ten and three years, nodding solemnly to the visitors' condolences. She held her head high, though her young face showed the stain of past tears. Layla braced a hand against the casket for support and felt her foster-brother's hand pressing against the small of her back. She had to stay strong. If not for herself, but for her father. Layla glanced to her father, who was standing like a statue in the corner. He was so distraught at her mother's death, blaming himself for not being able to save her. Alistair, her foster-brother, leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Are you going to be all right?" his voice was deeper than others at his ten and eight years.

"Yes, I shall be fine." Layla whispered back in a quiet voice. Alistair had come to live with them when she was just five years old. Alec and his parents had been close friends and when Alistair's parents were killed, he was taken in by the Gallaghers.