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Authors: Angelica Siren

Captured Heart

BOOK: Captured Heart
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Angelica Siren

© Angelica Siren 2014, all rights reserved.

All Romance Edition

The weather up north was the same, but
somehow the climate was completely different. It's the strangest thing about Ireland; for a small island there's more variety than you'd ever guess at from the outside. I'm used to the wide open spaces back home. In America, when we talk about heading "up north," we're talking about crossing state lines maybe, maybe heading up to Canada even. The whole trip from Dublin to Belfast took less than two hours but we might as well have been going to another planet.

We had ridden up to Belfast in force. Dublin would just have to do without the Druids Motorcycle Club for a few weeks. Until this job was done, Ronan had told everyone, all business in Dublin is on hold. I had considered staying in Dublin while he was away but I thought better of it. He might be gone a long time, even if the distance wasn't so great.
Furthermore, the war he was set to fight on his father's behalf came with no guarantee of safety. If something happened, I needed to be there. Plus, I'd barely been outside of Dublin since coming to the Emerald Isle. It was about time I got a wider perspective on my new home.

Ronan's father had invited the pair of us to stay with him but it was just a formality. I knew Ronan would never accept his offer and I was glad for it. When Terry had left, the rift between them seemed wider than ever. Every conversation they had - at least the ones I was present for - seemed to follow the same path. Ronan would be sullen and defensive and Terry would start out acting like the jolly father figure he might see himself as in his head. Before long they'd be yelling at one another and threatening each other. I couldn't handle weeks of those conversations and I was very glad when Ronan told me he'd arranged for us to stay with a couple old friends of his - Darren and Lila.

Darren was about as far from a biker as anyone Ronan had introduced me to. By day he worked as an accountant. By night he also worked as an accountant. You could measure the amount of excitement and adventure in his life with a teaspoon. Darren and Ronan had been the best of friends in primary school and had managed to keep in touch even though their lives had gone in completely different directions. Sometimes bonds of friendship can overcome drastic differences in life experience.

Darren's new wife Lila was a perfect match for him. Wherever he seemed to walk a straight line of normality, she brought in a little bit of color and chaos. When we arrived at their apartment in Belfast that evening, Darren answered the door wearing the remains of the business suit he'd been wearing that day. Lila was wearing a
bikini swimsuit. She immediately announced to the pair of us that she refused to believe that the weather was as gray and wet as it was and that she was doing everything she could to encourage the sun to come out. I liked her immediately.

Ronan had insisted that I ride with him on our trip up north. I didn't question it as I'd ridden behind him on his bike almost every day. I hadn't taken into account the length of the journey or the weather conditions though. The result was that, by the time we got to Darren and Lila's place, I was wet, sore and in no mood for company. I knew I had to make do though. Darren and Ronan were old friends, but I could tell he was counting on me to handle some of the social obligations. As charming as Ronan could be, he was somewhat lost when it came to interacting with people who didn't spend their time around bikes. That's part of what makes us a great pair, I guess - we fill in the gaps each other have. Darren and Lila were much the same and I couldn't help but feel that in another life we could be two happy couples who went on double dates together.

Lila had dinner ready for us when we arrived at the apartment, so I barely had enough time to dry my hair before I was being thrust into the thick of socializing.
We sat down at their small dinner table and I looked out the window across the city while Ronan and Darren exchanged pleasantries about our trip and how nice their apartment was. Belfast looked like just another city from here, but I knew this place was far more than that. This was the seat of centuries of violence and resentment for the Irish people on both sides of the border. At times it was still a dangerous place - something that's a bit hard to imagine when you're just getting used to 21st century Dublin.

Lila brought us a couple of beers and announced that dinner would be served momentarily. I noticed that she'd put on a long, flowing skirt though her bikini top remained the only thing she had on above the waist. Back in Baltimore, some people would call her a "free spirit". Here in Ireland she was just a bit weird. She was friendly and pleasant to guests though, and around here that counts for more than anything.

Dinner, it turned out, was Lila's attempt at making fried chicken. Apparently she'd taken it upon herself to research traditional American cuisine in advance of our visit and wanted to make sure I felt at home. Of course, I didn't grow up eating soul food and I've never even been south of the Mason-Dixon line, but it was a nice gesture all the same.

"Darren said we should go out for dinner," she explained, "but I knew you're be
tired from the road and I wanted to make sure you had some food you were used to."

I smiled and played along. I'd been in Ireland for months, so this was pretty far from being "what I was used to". I didn't mind though. I was hungry and looking forward to the meal and also to getting to know our curious hosts as well.

"So," Lila said as she piled potatoes onto my plate, "You're from America, then?"

"Yes," I told her, "Baltimore, actually. That's in Maryland."

that's just lovely," she said. I could tell immediately that she'd never actually seen Baltimore. "Lovely" wasn't a word that was usually used to describe it. Most people know it either for the crab cakes or Jon Waters movies - neither of which being cause for use of that particular word. At least she was making an effort though. Darren had barely acknowledged me. He and Ronan had been talking in low tones since we arrived. From the bits of conversation I was able to hear, they were discussing rumors and news about friends in common and where in the world they'd all ended up.

"Well," Lila told me, "I hope you'll be liking
Belfast. I've lived here all my life and there's no place like it in the world."

I smiled, catching the unintended subtext of what she was saying. If she'd never been anywhere else, I had my doubts about whether Belfast was as truly unique as she made it sound. Still, I wasn't going to jump to any conclusions. If this place could produce a character like her then it must have some life to it that couldn't be accounted for by the gray skies and gray buildings.

"What are you two doing up here aside from visiting us?" she asked. I was stumped for a moment. I didn't know how much of the real story Ronan had told Darren or whether Darren had relayed any or all of that information to Lila. I didn't want to come right out and say that Ronan was here to fight an underground crime war or anything like that, even if it was true and she seemed like the sort of person who was open to new experiences and strange behavior. Fortunately Ronan caught her question and interceded on my behalf.

"My da lives up here and he and I are doin
' a bit of business together for the next few weeks," he said. "He's trying to open a new company and needs my helping hands."

When he said it, I could see Darren's eyes narrowing. I guessed that he knew more of the truth than his wife did - or at least he suspected more of the truth. If the two of them had known one another for so long, then it seemed likely that Darren had a good idea of just what kind of business Ronan and Terry were mixed up in.

Dinner and conversation continued throughout the evening. The chicken was maybe a bit strange and the side dishes weren't exactly what I was expecting, but the results were a meal that truly did wonders to make me feel at home. As with any Irish gathering of any size, the beer kept flowing and the conversation turned from pleasantries to bawdy stories and loud boasts before long. Right in front of my eyes I saw Darren transform from a mild-mannered accountant to a loud and entertaining man who could keep the whole room's attention. Ronan and I hung on his every word as he told a particularly funny joke about a bear, the First Minister and why the two of them
shouldn't be invited to the same disco. I didn't really understand the references, but I laughed uproariously along with the rest of them when he delivered the punch line. I was beginning to understand what someone like Lila saw in him. In fact, as he spoke, I could see the way she watched him. There was love in her eyes, pure and simple. I reached under the table for Ronan's hand and clasped it tightly. He didn't ask why, but held my hand warmly all the same.

I watched Ronan's face light up as he told our hosts the story of how we'd met. I let him take the lead and explain it all with only a few interjections. Some stereotypes are just that, but I had yet to meet an Irishman who wasn't a born storyteller. Ronan was among the best of them, which probably has a lot to do with why he ended up as the leader of a motorcycle club in the first place. Being able to hold people's attention goes a long way when you're dealing with a group who prize their individuality.
When his masterful powers of oration were turned on Darren and Lila, there was nothing they could do but to sit enthralled, listening to every word as he spoke it.

Hearing him tell the story of our meeting was a pleasant reminder of the words he'd spoken to me before we set out for Belfast. He was coming up here to fight a war, but he said he was fighting it for me. At first I didn't know quite what to make of that. I wasn't the one who wanted him to go up here and fight. If I'd had my way, we'd be safe at home back in Dublin. I understood now the value of fighting in someone's name. If there was success to be won here in Belfast, then the victory would be
to both Ronan and myself. Victory wasn't triumph over the enemies of the Druids, it was the way we would return home together - stronger than when we'd set out on this mad quest. This was a war that had to be fought for the good of Druids across Ireland, but for Ronan it wasn't about all that. It was about making our world a little safer for the pair of us.

Eventually the stories grew less grand and the drinks were beginning to take their toll. I could see Darren drowsing at the table, and my head was swimming as well. I'd learned a lot about drinking since coming to Ireland, but I was still a novice by their measure. I smiled to myself at that thought. As incredible as finding Ronan had been, finding this strange and beautiful place was just as wonderful to me. I had found myself doing things and associating with people I never thought
I 'd
come near since arriving. Now I couldn't bear the thought of having any of it taken away. This place and these people were my new family and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Lila helped Darren to their bedroom while Ronan and I cleared the dishes and brought them to the kitchen. Doing such an ordinary and domestic task alongside Ronan made me chuckle under my breath. He didn't need to ask what I was chuckling at and merely smiled at me as he washed out a large bowl in the sink. Ronan had so many qualities I had come to love, but his ability to laugh at himself might have been the most endearing. Bikers - even the other druids - all seemed to take
themselves so seriously. Not Ronan though. He saw the ridiculousness of what he was doing sometimes and laughed because it was either that or
depressed. This was the role that life had cast him in and he'd play his part - but that didn't mean he had to do it humorlessly.

Lila came into the kitchen and shooed us away from the dishes.

"Leave them, leave them!" she insisted as she pushed us out of the kitchen. "You're my guests and I'll be the one taking care of you. Your room is down there on the left at the end of the hall."

We thanked her and stumbled down the short hallway towards our temporary home here in Belfast. The room was small and cozy and only half
furnished. I'd gathered from our dinner conversation that Darren and Lila had only been living in this apartment for a short time. The room was eventually going to be used as a nursery, but they didn't have any use for it yet. For now the room was made up to be used for guests, though Lila had mentioned that we were the first to stay there.

Ronan carried our heavy bags with him into the room.
Ordinarily I might have objected and insisted on carrying my own bag, but I was feeling a bit tipsy and more than happy to let him show off just how strong he was. I packed light, but that still meant a lot of clothes. He, of course, barely brought anything. Try as I might, still couldn't bring
to adopt the same fashion sense as the Druids. Back in Dublin, Daisy had teased me about how much work I put into my outfits, saying that I'd be a lot more comfortable wearing the same jeans and t-shirt every day. She's probably right, but I've still got a while before I can abandon the rest of my wardrobe.

BOOK: Captured Heart
8.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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