Hot Whispers of an Irishman

BOOK: Hot Whispers of an Irishman
10.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
“Have you thought of me, Vi?”

“Now and again,” she said, all casual. Liam stepped nearer, and she worried that he was going to touch her and feel how quickly her heart was dancing. “After all, you were my first lover.”

“I’ve thought of you,” he said, coming around the box that separated them. “All the time. Even when I tried not to do it. You remember what it was like, don’t you? That last summer, I don’t think we slept at all.”

Each step he neared, her blood rushed faster.

“I remember.”

“Are you married?” he asked.

“No.”

“Involved?”

“No, again. Any reason you’re asking?”

“Many, but mostly because I’d like to kiss you.”

Because she wanted to see if she could still feel the joy of teasing him, she added a little bluster to their brew of emotions. “If you kiss me, you might find your nose back in place.”

Liam laughed at the shared memory.

Vi couldn’t help herself. She traced her index finger down the ridge of his nose. When he reached out and pulled her closer, her breath left on a surprised gasp. She braced one hand on his chest, thinking if she were sane she’d push him away.

Ah, but sanity was a highly overrated state.

Praise for
Hot Nights in Ballymuir

“[W]armly appealing thanks to its assured prose and deft characterizations. The quirky folks who populate Ballymuir create a funny, affectionately drawn world to which readers will eagerly return.”


Publishers Weekly

“[A] modern story graced with a little bit of old Irish magic.”


Booklist

“Smartly written, the characters are entertaining, with dialogue zinging between Jenna and Dev…. Kelly is an author who delivers first-rate reads.”


The Oakland Press

“A charmer from the talented Kelly. The sights, smells, and atmosphere of Ireland permeate this appealing tale…. Four stars.”


Romantic Times

Praise for
The Last Bride in Ballymuir

“A strong plot, entertaining secondary characters, and an enjoyable small-town setting…. Lovers of Irish romance will definitely look forward to the next installment.”


Romantic Times

“As with any good Irish tale,
The Last Bride in Ballymuir
is filled with equal parts warmth, humor, and angst. For a story that will tug at your heartstrings, bring tears to your eyes, and leave you smiling with happiness, I recommend
The Last Bride in Ballymuir.”

—AOL’s Romance Fiction Forum

“Delightful…. Readers will not believe that
The Last Bride in Ballymuir
is Dorien Kelly’s debut novel and will be looking forward to more novels from this series of contemporary romances featuring foreign locations.”


Midwest Book Review

Also by Dorien Kelly

The Last Bride in Ballymuir

Hot Nights in Ballymuir

Published by Pocket Books

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

An
Original
Publication of POCKET BOOKS

POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 2005 by Dorien Kelly

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-1600-2
ISBN-10: 1-4165-1600-X

POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

With deep thanks to all who have written to me about my Irish stories. The gifts of your time and interest have enriched my life beyond measure.

Chapter One

May you retain your eyes, and your inheritance from your grandmother.

—I
RISH
P
ROVERB

V
i Kilbride considered herself a skilled collector of many things: stones and seashells, homely dogs and fine looking men. It seemed, though, that she had nothing on her grandmother. Except potentially in the man department, as Nan had been dead these past ten years, which could prove a handicap, indeed.

Vi looked about Nan’s tumbledown cottage, shaking her head at the sheer volume of Nan-things left stacked in great piles. She didn’t recall seeing so much a decade ago, when she’d last journeyed to this western edge of County Kilkenny.

“Well, then, time for a bit of wishcraft,” Vi said, though there was no one inside but Roger, her stumpy and well-loved terrier, to hear her. At least, no one living.

She settled her palm atop a box on which she recognized Nan’s plain writing. It was madness, what Vi was about to do. But she rather enjoyed madness.

“Come on, Nan, send it back,” Vi said. Then she closed her eyes and tried to will into being the second sight that Nan had urged her to treasure and hone. The second sight that had always been a frustratingly imperfect gift and lately had gone bat-bloody-blind. After months of hoping and reading and meditation, she was down to this…using this clean-up-and-sell visit to see if her sight had flitted back home to where Nan once was.

All Vi knew was that deep inside, a jagged, ash gray landscape had settled where once ancient voices had whispered and lush secrets had flowered and let her create her art and dream her dreams. This awful silence was slowly diminishing her, and she was growing terrified of disappearing altogether. Nan would tell her that there was a purpose to the silence, a lesson to be learned. But Vi was so very tired and often sad, and had no desire left to learn.

Tightening her muscles, she concentrated until she literally ached. If she were a goose, she’d have laid a twenty-four-karat-filled nest by now.

Please,
she thought.
I’ve already had damn well enough taken from me, haven’t I?

Suddenly her skin tingled and toes curled as a wave of anticipation rolled from the soles of her feet to the top of her soul.

Yes! Come to me…

And coming it was, on a nearly palpable wave of excitement. An instant later, Vi’s eyes flew open at a rattling of boxes and the scrabbling of claws on the cottage floor. Roger burst into the front room, something clenched between his teeth. And that something possessed a twitching and suspiciously rodent-like tail.

She’d lost her vision to a miserable mouse! Or worse, perhaps it had been Roger’s excitement that she’d been sensing all along…. She narrowed her gaze at Rog’s captive. At moments such as this, it was taxing to be a vegetarian.

“Drop!” Vi shouted.

Roger froze.

“Now!”

She watched as a fierce battle between instinct and the demands of civility took place behind her hound’s chocolaty brown eyes. If the mouse’s life weren’t in the balance, she’d empathize, for she felt the same pull herself, daily.

“Don’t make me take that from you,” she threatened.

Roger curled back his lips, opened his lower jaw, and dropped one stunned and wet mouse to the floor.

“Fine job of hunting,
a ghrá,
” she said to Rog as she wrapped her fingers round his collar. “Now, sit.”

Half surprised that he continued to obey, she quickly reached toward the mouse, whose sides rose and fell in panicked breaths.

“I ask for a vision and I get you, eh?” she said to it. Nan must be having a fine laugh, up among the stars.

Before Vi could get a grip on the creature, it tucked its feet beneath itself and began to stagger away. Roger jumped to attention and wriggled from her grasp.

“Stay!” she commanded both dog and mouse.

Neither listened.

As dog shot for mouse and mouse sought shelter, Vi opened the cottage door, then scooped a yellowed newspaper from a teetering stack and began waving it along the floorboards.

“Out with you!”

Three circuits of the front room later, dog, mouse, and woman were outside in the dour late autumn rain. Once the mouse made it to the underbrush clogging Nan’s garden, Rog gave up the chase and retreated inside. Vi stood in the rain a moment more, frowning at her da, who still sat in her car, reading a much less mildewed paper than the one Vi clutched.

Wise man for declining to come inside, but his holiday was over. If she couldn’t have her damned sight back this morning, at the very least she could begin to make sense of Nan’s cottage. No one would buy it as it was.

She waved him in, and the car door opened with the same slow unwillingness as had Roger’s jaws.

“Tell you what,” she said to Da once they were out of the wet. “Help me in here, and then this afternoon we’ll pop over to the pub for a pint.”

“I’d rather be in this,” he said, gesturing about, “than in the middle of a pack of Raffertys.”

Vi could understand. The village of Duncarraig was hardly a vast place, but what it lacked in size, it made up for in sheer numbers of Raffertys. In the years since she’d last been here, it seemed that the family had taken over with a particularly Irish glee.

While driving through town she’d seen the pub, plus a dry cleaner’s and a market all emblazoned with the Rafferty name. She sorrowed for their originality as well as the size of the familial ego, naming all things the same. Of course, it had been some years since she’d thought anything but pig’s-trotters-low of the Rafferty clan.

“We could hire out the cleaning,” Da said, looking as overwhelmed by the chaos as Vi felt.

Tempting, but she had never been well-stocked in money and soon would have even less. “I’d rather pay myself. Can you imagine what those Raffertys might extort?”

“True enough,” muttered her da.

“This can’t all have been Nan’s,” Vi said.

Her da shifted uncomfortably, fussing with the cuffs of his crisp, white, and bloody impractical shirt.

“Well,” he said, “I did tell a friend that it would be fine if he kept a wee thing or two here. He must have forgotten it when he moved to Dublin to live with his daughter.”

Forgotten, indeed. This was dumping, pure and simple.

“A generous offer, Da.” Vi rued the day she’d turned oversight of the property back to her father, who lived only thirty miles off in Kilkenny City, instead of her hours-long drive away, in the County Kerry village of Ballymuir.

Da looked at his shoes, then back to Vi. “I’m sorry it’s come to this. It’s not right, you selling the land my mother left you, and I’ve only myself to blame.”

“Da, don’t be so hard—”

“No,” he said with a vehement shake of his head. “I’ve let it all come to rest on your doorstep for far too long. I looked the other way when you took in your brother Michael with him straight out of prison, thinking he needed your love and your shoe to his behind, too. When Danny and Pat left home and moved in with you, I told myself it was a fine thing, all four of my children under the same roof. But what I was really thinking was how easy you’d made it for me. All my troubles had come down to one. Your mam’s not so very simple to live with.”

Vi laughed. “And you’ve a fine way with understatement, but don’t be mistaking me for a saint. I’ve had the best of the bargain.” She arched a brow at him before adding, “But if you send me Mam, I’ll ship her back.”

Da managed a wan smile, and then even that faded. “Ah, but you and Nan, what you had was special. It’s wrong that you’re losing this.” He gave one helpless look around and amended, “Well, not
this,
exactly.”

“It’s time I let go. I don’t need the land or the house to have Nan. She lives here,” Vi said, settling a hand over her heart. It was a fib, but not one in which her father could catch her.

“I should have been better prepared,” he said. “I should have saved more. Bastards, pushing me out before my time.”

She knew it stung Da’s pride to have been declared redundant at the insurance company where he’d worked so many years. Here it was six months later and still Michael Kilbride, Senior, dressed daily in a suit and tie for a job no longer his.

And so, as Da had said, it had come down to her again. Money was needed for Danny’s years at university, and given the bad spot he’d had at sixteen, he was no scholarship candidate. Da was unemployed. Michael had moved out and his fine carpentry business was growing, but he and his wife Kylie had a child on the way. For a while at least Kylie would not be teaching and money would be tight.

Vi was the Kilbride family’s last, best hope. And she would do anything for them, even clean this bloody mess.

“It will all come right,” she said, though her own faith had worn thin.

With her father trailing behind, she walked from the front room to the kitchen. This space was little better than the front, except the items clogging it were things Vi knew—a mad jumble of furniture that ten years ago she’d had no house to hold.

Vi turned a tap at the kitchen sink and received a grudging dribble of rust-colored water in return.

“Bleak,” she said. The thrill of the mouse-chase had faded, and her weariness of soul had seeped back in.

“True enough,” Da said from behind her.

Vi closed the tap. “The supplies I brought will do us little good. Tomorrow, I’ll talk to someone about getting a rubbish tip brought to the house.”

Her father eyed her glumly. “Then with nothing to be done here, it’s back home for us?”

At her sound of agreement, Da sighed. “The pub’s sounding none too bad, just now.”

“Too early,” Vi pointed out, and though she was equally unready to see Mam, she whistled for Rog.

“Home,” she said when he arrived to nudge her shin with his nose.

“Home,” her da echoed.

At least Roger danced at the word, but he was likely thinking doggie thoughts of Ballymuir, not the land of torture-by-Maeve.
Two weeks,
Vi told herself,
I can survive two weeks of nearly anything.

 

If it was possible to die from a surfeit of family, Liam Rafferty was well on the way. From his early afternoon vantage point at the back of Rafferty’s Pub, it would appear that the nonpaying Rafferty clientele was outnumbering the guests. This was no way to run a business. Neither was it any way for him to get work done, but if he went back to the house he kept here in town, they’d just troop to his doorstep.

He’d left Duncarraig for America fifteen years before, and though he always dropped in for a stay when his tight business schedule would permit, never had he lasted three bloody weeks. Make that three bloody weeks with no end to the visit in sight, he reminded himself while contemplating the photocopies of historical documents in front of him.

“You’ve heard who’s here, have you not?”

Liam looked up from his paperwork and gave his brother Cullen a terse “no.”

“It’s a shocker, all right,” Cullen added.

Liam ignored him.

Cullen lingered in that silent yet somehow plaintive way that younger siblings perfect early on. Liam held fast to his determination to ignore him as long as he could. Cullen was the worst gossipmonger among Liam’s six brothers and sisters, which was a lofty status to achieve, what with all the competition. There was no good to be gained from encouraging him. And very little accurate information, either.

“You don’t want to know? That’s near unnatural,” Cullen said after a few moments.

“For you, maybe.” Liam closed the folder. “If I let you tell me, will you leave me to my work?”

Cullen looked ready to burst with glee. “Violet Kilbride and her da are staying out to the old Kilbride house.”

Buffeted by an adrenaline-charged rush, Liam lost all words. Then reason set in. Right. Vi would be living there when cows let whiskey instead of milk. He’d been walking the Kilbride land these past three weeks and could guarantee there wasn’t a mongrel in town desperate enough to live in Nan’s uninhabitable house, let alone two humans.

“Tell me another one,” he said in bored reply. No point in letting his brother know that he’d struck a very raw nerve.

“But it’s true,” Cullen insisted. “Brenda Teevey saw her getting out of a car with all sorts of bags and cases. She said that Vi’s the same as she was years ago. Of course Brenda thinks she is too, though her arse is grown so big, it’s taken additional land in County Tipperary.”

Using his water glass, Liam raised a toast to his brother. “There’s a reason you’re not married.”

His brother laughed. “And this coming from you, the first Rafferty ever to be…” He gave a dramatic look around the room, then finished with a stage whispered “
divorced.”

“Better I just rob a petrol station like Cousin Manus.”

“Hell, yes. When Manus comes back, he’ll be forgiven. You, my brother, will be forever married in Mam’s eyes. ‘Unless I hear it from His Holiness himself, Beth is Liam’s wife,’” Cullen finished in an uncanny imitation of their mother.

Beth, however, had seen fit to make Liam’s marital status otherwise. As an American—and a holidays-only Catholic—she was a wee bit less worried about the pope’s opinion of divorce. In any case, Liam didn’t blame her. He’d be the first to say that he’d been a balls-out awful example of a husband. His work in marine salvage pulled him from the North Sea to Tahiti, with few stops home.

BOOK: Hot Whispers of an Irishman
10.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Lord Tony's Wife by Orczy, Emmuska
Unconditional Love by Kelly Elliott
A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
What a Ghoul Wants by Victoria Laurie