A GLINT O’THE GREEN
Debi Rogers/Kenna Jayne Macrae
“Bertie, will ya push the hair behind my ear?” the waitress asked, hands filled with dishes she’d just cleared from his table.
“Lean closer, Fionna.” The rotund butcher whose shop was around the corner from the pub used a chubby finger to push back the wayward red curl.
Finnagan’s Rainbow overflowed with lunch customers and Fee Glen Eire shimmied, slid, held her breath, turned sideways, whatever it took to get between the mismatched chairs and rowdy patrons. She bounded to the kitchen with her precarious load, her heart light. It had been three months since she’d come home to Sedona to roost. And, if she were honest, to get away from an untenable situation. But that was over.
She’d spent three glorious, hedonistic years living all over Europe with her boyfriend. Dublin. Edinburgh. Stratford. Canterbury. Giverny. The Loire Valley. Tuscany. She couldn’t even remember all the places they’d stayed. As a free-lance photographer, his pictures graced a myriad of magazines. Requests for his celebrated expertise exploded into full-blown, eighteen-hour workdays. Trains, hostels, backpacks and hiking boots became their ever-constant companions.
As the luck of the Irish would have it, she’d found a gold piece shaped like a shamrock in the pocket of her jacket just as her foot touched the soil of the Emerald Isle. Left on her own for a time in Dublin, she’d stumbled into a timeworn, waddle and daub pub, the Rose and Shamrock, that made her feel like she’d been transported back in time. Inside she’d found her roots, kith and kin, Celtic and Viking. That first night, Fee asked for a Guinness and the barkeep offered her a pint she shared with new friends, the rowdy patrons surrounding the carved bar, hewn with the history of centuries of travelers and locals.
Staying in a bed and breakfast, owned by the McGregors, Fionna wrapped herself in the homey atmosphere of the tiny village outside Dublin. In the evenings she ate lamb, shepherd’s pie, colcannon, honey mead––that had been stronger, thicker and more bitter than she could stand––and her favorite, Irish cream.
One night she overindulged in the cream, swinging joyously to the fiddlers magic, nigh on into oblivion. The hopping cacophony raised the roof until dawn. To quell her dizzy head, she pushed through the crowd to reach the cool summer air. Strong hands held her arms as she swayed, slightly wobbly just outside the door. ’Twas the raw-boned, six-pack honed, Irish biker son of the woman who owned Whispering Willows, the bed and breakfast.
“Aahhh, lassie, ya smell of lavendar.” He placed a light finger under her chin to bring her gaze to his. The world spun and if he hadn’t slid a strong arm behind her back she might have collapsed in the bracken. He pulled her tight to keep her upright, bringing them so close, his cologne, mingled with her soul, pulled her straight to heaven. His scent lodged in the deepest recesses of her brain, springing forth at the damnedest times, reminding her of the mystery of this man, of this moment in time.
He lowered his head and touched her lips with his, like a fog softly covering the world. So gently, so thoroughly, so unobtrusively, he captured her innermost self. She deepened the kiss, luxuriating in the electrifying jolt his domination caused, melting her bones, binding her to him in a way that she knew he was the one.
He stopped far too soon. “Why...why are you stopping?” She slid her thin arms around his brawny neck and ran fingers through his thick, blond hair, pulling it from the queue. “Don’t stop. I––we––the night…” Fionna knew she sounded like a babbling fool, but she couldn’t stop herself. And the worst part was, he did stop. He walked her to her room, opened the door and left her with a light, chaste kiss.
And then she found herself across the sea in Scotland, following the photographer. But her Irishman rarely strayed far from her thoughts. And guilt began to torture her.
Eventually she tired of the vagabond life and left her boyfriend, because she feared he’d never stay put and Fionna wanted a home and children. A home that stayed still. Her traveling days were over. But not her sweet memories.
Sedona was home. Safe. Though her parents despaired of her getting real work, she liked the feel of the bar. Patrons knew her. Besides, Chef allowed her to create dishes to add to the menu and they had become popular. Her dream was to run her own kitchen. Maybe even her own restaurant.
She pulled the chalk board into the back room to scribble the menu for the evening. Irish lamb stew had never been a favorite of hers. Too bland. And she refused to make corned beef and cabbage. The dinner special would be her potato soup and roast lamb, slowly braised.
Shuffling in slippers to the bar, she found Aidan scowling behind it.
Honestly, the man was a veritable Pandora’s box of moods. Refusing to indulge him, Fee leaned on the bar and grinned lewdly over the taps, just to irritate him.
“Shall I get myself a bottle of Baileys or do you want to hand me one?”
“Why what?” she asked teasingly.
“I’m not givin’ ya a bottle, ya wee drunkard.”
Letting loose with a chortle, she shook her head, sending pins and clips slipping down and out of her heavy mane. “Well, I’m going to make Barmbrack, but first some Bailey’s cupcakes just for the evening,” she finished spritely.
Grabbing her hair she wound it into a knot using a pencil to hold it in place.
At his raised brows, Fee trotted behind the bar and snatched the necks of two new bottles of Baileys, disappearing into the kitchen as quickly as she’d come.
“Ya be answerin’ fer those, not me,” he bellowed.
In the back, shepherd’s pie baked, filling the breathable air with tantalizing aroma. Vivid memories of her grandmother covered in flour and dough tumbled over themselves until she expected to see her. Chef’s specialty was the pie. Using a secret ingredient or two, he refused to let anyone else prepare the dish.
The bar had a few lingerers, but otherwise the ring of the old fire bell at the door signaling a customer jarred Fee from her baking. She was the only waitress who stayed through from lunch until close. Hands sticky with dough and flour, she waited. Aidan’s voice came.
“Patrice, keep an eye on my soup, will ya?” Fee shot over her shoulder.
Venturing into the front, she saw a man talking to Aidan. Long, heavy blond hair pulled neatly into a thong jarred her mind to a time she longed to forget. It couldn’t be. His arms were sheathed in a long-sleeved teal shirt covered by a sleeveless brown leather vest, but the tight jeans covering the sculpted butt sent a jolt of recognition zinging through her. OMG, it could be. A symphony of memories poured over Fionna. European memories.
How could it possibly be...him? How had he found her? Again.
As she neared, a nerve-tingling cologne swirled, ebbed and then paralyzed her. Only one person in her small world smelled of this seductively, male scent, Kilian’s, Straight To Heaven. And it was. She grabbed for a chair.
He turned and she sucked in a tiny gasp, forgetting to breath then. Wide eyes the shade of magnolia leaves in the deep, wet summer eclipsed his face. And dammit, but he made her knees buckle. No. She wouldn’t let him do this to her. Not again.
His smile went from mild surprise to deep delight. “Finally. You’re a hard woman to find.”
“Dublin is a long way from Sedona.” Her breathy voice faltered and cracked. The last man on earth she wanted to see stood in her bar. Her voice turned cold. “Where’s your entourage?”
He had the decency to dip his head, then give her a lopsided grin. Blatant understanding in his eyes, he shook his head. “Left them behind.”
She snorted. “I bet.”
Women. Women of all ages flocked to him wherever he went. Each time he appeared to plague her, to tug at her heart, a woman clung to his muscular biceps. Though his mossy eyes would talk to her, twinkling and inviting, the women spoke volumes. Another roving man, just a different interest. But why the hell did he follow her around Europe? And how? It was like he had a sixth sense or a honing device.
His smile never wavered. Thirsty eyes drank her in like she were a real lake in a desert filled with mirages. Rapidly becoming more than disturbed by his sudden appearance, she wanted him to disappear.
“Flour becomes ya,” he ventured nearer her, a finger extended toward her nose.
She stepped back and brushed at his hand, not wanting him within a million miles of touching her. Just the sight of him set her heart to beating wildly. This was why she left Europe.
“How did you find me?” Her tone cut sharper than she’d meant, but he didn’t flinch. In fact, his shamrock green eyes lapped her up from head to toe.
“To tell the truth, I don’t know.” He spread his legs and hooked his thumbs in his belt loops. “Something keeps tugging at me. Ever since you left Ireland, I’ve had this––this urge to travel. And here I am. All those times we met all over Europe, it was the same. Like a whisper drawing me.” A glint of green flashed as he drew an object from his vest pocket.
His Irish brogue unsettled her. This was the problem. He’d woven a spell around her in Europe. All the places they’d met should never have happened. Every time she saw him, a tiny sigh escaped her heart, leaving an ache to replace it. Then she questioned, why any relationship? Conflicted, she left.
A snicker from Aidan drew their attention. He hunched his shoulders in a gesture as if to say, “what?” when they both stared.
Fee breezed past Donal with a shrug. “You have to leave. There’s no reason for you to be here.” His aura captured another whisper of her heart as she passed him.
“Is this reason enough?” He slapped a gold shamrock on the counter. Aidan pounced on it, but Donal was faster. He covered it, turned his head toward Fee and crooked one cocky brow. Daring her to run from the room.
The blood drained from her face. “W––wh––where did you find it?”
“Deep in one of my jacket pockets. ’Tis guessing I am now, ’tis been there since the first time we met. Ever after I’ve had this unexplainable pull that runs us into each other. What else could it be?”
“Pfft. It’s called love ‘em and leave ‘em. No pull or magic to it. Just you. Give me back my coin and then leave me alone. Go back to Ireland.”
“Hold now, lass!” Aidan blurted. Frowns all around. “He’s a paying customer, Fee. Ya can’t trow him out. Besides maybe he’s here for green beer.”
Fionna flipped directions faster than a fish slipped out of reach. Fine, let him keep the coin. She’d learned to be without it. Luck she didn’t need, not with him standing in front of her, making her blood race like a thoroughbred. She needed a curse to send the man away.
Her hands shook so, she had to clutch them together while she strode through the swinging doors to the kitchen. “Let it lie, Donal. I’m not interested,” she lied.
*The hell she wasn’t interested.
Donal McGregor kicked off his shoes after he slammed shut the hotel door. How had he ended up in the very bar in Sedona, face to face with Fionna, the most stubborn woman he’d ever had the pleasure to meet? Truth was definitely stranger than fiction. He felt bewitched. His heartbeat raced whenever he got near the lass. Inexplicable.
Lying with ankles crossed on the king-sized bed, coin clasped tightly in his fist, the golden shamrock burned like molten lava. A reminder of the lass’ fiery hair and blazing temper. A wispy breeze floated over his lips to awaken the memory of her buttery-soft lips touching his in a kiss that branded her name on his heart. Damn the woman.
The smallest of sounds escaped her and his eyes flew open. She was here. The temperature of the room heightened until an ethereal, sultry mist hugged him. He leaned up on both elbows and jerked his head, scanning every corner, looking for her.
Closing his eyes, he sensed her all over again. He lay the shamrock on the bed covers with his hand protectively over top of it.
Though she stayed busy with dinner and a wildly crazy crash of people, her mind strayed to Donal and the shamrock. Suddenly the pub noise died to nothing. At the door stood the towering blond biker.
Fionna worried her bottom lip and sucked in a ragged breath. No words would form.
He crooked his finger at her and she shook her head. She swallowed hard and backed away. Backed into a solid, warm body.
Aidan whispered in her ear. “Go to him, lass. You know you want to.”
The crowd opened a path for Donal that led to Fee. She felt a nudge that pushed her into his powerful arms. He placed the shamrock into the cup of one of her palms and closed her hand around it. While they held it, a glint o’ green sparked from his gaze into her bistre eyes and he said, “I love ya, Fionna Glen Eire. I’ve loved ya since the first time we drank the mead.”
The shamrock slipped from her fingers and rolled across the floor as she slid her palms around his waist. The glow from her perception enveloped his dear face and she accepted what she’d felt all through her travels.
“We were meant to be, Donal. I love ya. And I’ll no run from the guilt of it nay more.”
“’Twas a kiss, lassie. Only a kiss. Naught else.” Then he lowered his head, branding her as his forevermore with only a kiss.
Aidan chuckled gleefully and sprinkled magic dust over the couple. “An’ the luck o’ the Irish be with ya. May ya live happily ever after.”