A Matter of Luck
Work was the last place Gavin Reid wanted to be at that moment. Where had the fun in life gone? Maybe his mom was right. He needed to take some time off—let her run the store and get out of Sedona, maybe even leave Arizona altogether. Frowning, he realized his last vacation had been just after college when he took his parents to Ireland. It had been the first and last vacation with his parents. Two months later, his father had died from a heart attack.
The small, antique, mantle clock on his desk chimed noon. As if on cue, his stomach growled, reminding him he’d skipped breakfast. Pushing away from the desk, he decided a beer and the daily special from the pub across the street was exactly what he needed.
Slipping out of his office, he waited for his mother to finish with a customer. “Mom, I’m running across the street to Finnagan’s for lunch. Would you like me to bring you back something?”
She offered a small smile but shook her head. “I’m not really hungry right now.”
Gavin frowned. “We’ve talked about this--you’ve lost too much weight, Mom. One good, stiff breeze and you’ll be blowin’ in the wind.” His face scrunched up in a pained grimace at his mother’s snicker.
She reached up and patted his cheek then shooed him from behind the display counter. “I love your terrible puns—now go get something to eat.”
He loved the old Irish bar. Hearing the trilling flute and lively dance tunes always made him feel a bit lighter when he walked. As if his luck was about to take a turn for the better.
He made his way across the wavy floor, the old wood scarred and worn from thousands of dancing feet over the years. Pulling himself up onto the tall bar stool, he waited for Aidan, the crotchety bartender, to make his way down the bar as he filled orders. In moments, Gavin’s Black and Tan ale appeared. Aidan knew him well. He sipped the brew, appreciating the rich foam as he swallowed. As he finished off the glass, a second one appeared, accompanied by his lunch.
Standing in the dim interior of the noisy pub, Ryanne McDonnell pulled in as deep a breath as she could, drawing every scent she could into her lungs. The smell of good Irish cooking and Guinness reminded her of home. She climbed onto the tall wooden bar stool and gave the bartender her order. Glancing around the room, she noticed the authenticity of the pub and tapped her feet in rhythm with the lively music playing through hidden speakers.
Gently dropping her heavy bag to the floor, she raised her head just in time to grab her plate as it flew toward her on the bar’s smooth wooden surface. Before she could react, the snarling man grabbed her arm. His long fingers wrapped around her wrist like a vice as he pulled her forward. The gold coin in her bracelet glittered in its silver filigreed setting. She forced her gaze to his, swallowing the frisson of fear when an evil smile curled his lips.
“Let me go!” she hissed, wondering if he even heard her in the noisy pub, and jerked her arm back. Neither the man nor her arm budged. Heart pounding, she struggled to reclaim her arm. She only succeeded in bumping her neighbor’s broad back.
“Wha—Aidan!” The stranger yelled. “What the hell are you doing? Let the lady go!” The man’s voice sounded familiar, but before she could look up, another tug from Aidan pulled her against the bar’s edge and knocked the breath from her lungs. The stranger leaned across the bar and pried her arm from the bartender’s grip.
“Aidan, what’s gotten in to you?”
The bartender muttered a response, but his accent was too heavy for her to understand a word. Rubbing her wrist, more for comfort than from pain, she jumped when she felt the stranger’s gentle touch as his hand cupped her elbow.
“Are you all right? Did Aidan hurt you?”
The man’s familiar baritone voice washed over her. “Gavin?” She raised her head, her eyes wide and bright. The worried face staring back at her had aged but he was still magnificent. He wore his rich chocolate brown hair longer than she remembered, the ends curling at the base of his neck and over his ears. His eyes were as clear and blue as the Arizona sky. He was so much more than she could ever have dreamed. “It is you.” Her hesitant smile quickly spread as his expression shifted from worry to recognition.
Gavin couldn’t believe Ryanne McDonnell was actually sitting next to him. Long-buried emotions slammed him like a tidal wave. His mouth opened and closed like a codfish. Mentally giving himself a shake, he shut his mouth and forced his hand drop away from her elbow to rest against his thigh.
“Ryanne?” He’d always known she would be the beauty of the family but the woman sitting next to him looked gorgeous. Streaked with golden blonde highlights, her red hair draped around her heart-shaped face to perfection, the ends kissing the top of her shoulders. Long lashes framed brilliant kelly green eyes. From what he could see of her figure, it was full in all the right places, making certain parts of his body jump to attention.
He ignored the sharp twinge in his chest. He clenched his hands into tight fists, swallowing a couple of times as his just-devoured sandwich threatened to make a very nasty reappearance. Too many memories hurdled over one another, trying to escape the barrier he’d imprisoned them in. Screeching tires. Metal thudding flesh. Flashing lights. Sirens. Silence. His high school girlfriend in her casket. Regan. Ryanne’s older sister.
He stumbled to his feet and turned to leave. Ryanne’s small hand grabbed his arm. He pressed his toes against the hard soles of his shoes like tree roots holding him in place as he waited for her anger and grief—waited for the tongue-lashing he’d run away from all these years ago.
“Gavin.” Her voice, so much like Regan’s, cut him in two. “Please stay. I know you don’t want to hear what I need to tell you, but I’m begging you—stay. If not for me, then for Regan. She wouldn’t have wanted things to end the way they did. None of us wanted that.”
He scrubbed a hand over his face, exhausted physically and emotionally. He’d known for a long time now that he had to let go of his past, but how was he supposed do so? He was the reason Regan died. But he couldn’t walk away from Ryanne. He closed his eyes, dropping his head in acquiescence. He walked to an empty table, pulled a chair out for her, and helped her scoot up to the table. Just as he’d done her entire life. Sitting across from her, he met her green eyes. They sat in silence while the barmaid placed their unfinished lunches in front of them though neither felt like eating anymore.
“Why did you leave after the funeral? You never even said goodbye.” Her voice was quiet, barely a whisper in the loud din going on around them. But he heard her clearly, as if they were alone in the room.
He let out a long breath and fiddled with his fork. “I don’t know, Ryanne. There were so many reasons back then. Now. How could I face your mom and dad? You? You had just buried your sister and it was my fault—”
“Gavin Reid! Stop it. Stop blaming yourself for what happened. The crash was ruled an accident. My sister wouldn’t have blamed you and neither did we. You were part of our family and your leaving hurt almost as much as losing Regan,” she paused, counted to two, and added, “You had no idea a cow was trying to commit suicide on that road.
Gavin stared at her, trying to keep a straight face. He’d forgotten Ryanne’s weird sense of humor and welcomed it now like a gift. Unable to keep the grin off his face, he shook his head at her. “Really? A suicidal cow? That’s all you could come up with?”
Ryanne snorted. “Well, it made you smile didn’t it?” She pushed her plate of food toward the center of the table and motioned to one of the barmaids to place an order. A few minutes later, an Irish coffee steamed in front of her and Gavin cupped his Black and Tan between his hands. Blowing on the hot liquid, she took a small sip, enjoying the creamy warmth that helped calm the fast-paced thudding in her chest. She placed the glass mug on the table. She had questions to ask and she’d waited long enough. “How have you been? And your parents? When their letters stopped, Mom and Dad assumed they moved again. Why did you never bother to even write?”
He downed the last of his beer and wiped his mouth, tucking the napkin underneath the edge of his empty plate. “I’ve been fine. Morenci wasn’t the same after--. Besides, I never wanted to work at the mine. As you know, Phelp’s Dodge was pushing for our land. Dad was more than ready to retire. Two years ago, Dad died. Mom—well, she can’t let him go. What about you?”
She sighed. “Pretty much the same thing. I hated living there. The mine reminded me of what’s been lost. About a month or so after your parents moved, the mine told the rest of us to leave. Mom and Dad live Payson.”
Gavin glanced at the clock behind the bar and groaned. Leaning forward, he grabbed Ryanne’s hand and asked, “I have to get back to work, but would you like to meet me for supper?”
She nodded and gave him a huge smile. “I would love to.” She scribbled her cell number down on a napkin and handed it to him. “Call me at this number and I’ll meet you. I have a few places to go this afternoon and don’t know how long it will take me.” She handed him the napkin and watched as he walked to the register at the end of the bar. After paying, he carefully folded the napkin in half and tucked it in his wallet then left the pub. Disappointed he hadn’t looked back, she made her own way toward the register. Digging through her purse for money, she didn’t notice Aidan standing behind the counter.
“Gavin paid for ya, cailín.”
Startled, she glared, not caring how much he scared her. “Why did you grab my wrist earlier?”
He shrugged his thin shoulders. “Ya have somethin’ o’ mine and I’d be wantin’ it back.”
Ryanne frowned. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She raised her arms and looked down at her body. “I bought everything I’m wearing and carrying. The only thing I didn’t buy was my bracelet. I made it from my sister’s lucky coin.” Her gaze speared his. “I have nothing of yours.”
He smiled. It was not a nice smile and made her step backward. “’Twill see ’bout that, cailín. The future will be tellin’ us who has the right of it.”
~ ~ ~
Ryanne sat on the small balcony of her hotel room. The rusty, red sandstone of the tall conical formations on the horizon reminded her of stalagmites she’d seen at Carlsbad Caverns years ago. The rounded, jagged formations rose toward the sky like dark pillars or chimneys and gave the area an eerie charm. She still loved Gavin—not as a brother like everyone thought, but as the other part of her soul. She had loved him before her sister even knew he existed.
Glancing down, she rubbed her finger over the surface of her sister’s lucky gold coin. She had never believed in luck or magic but that’s exactly what she would need with Gavin. When he didn't call, she knew he still struggled with the past. She kissed the coin, sending a silent plea for help, then went back inside her room, closing the sliding glass door on her worries.
~ ~ ~
Ryanne stood in the jewelry store. An empty rocking chair sat tucked into the back corner behind the counter. The sound of a soothing waterfall coupled with quiet classical music created a peaceful ambiance and gave the store a different feel from all the others. She loved the warmth of the pale yellow walls and the small selection of beautiful pottery resting on small, almost invisible ledges across the back wall.
“Mom, can you—?”
She jumped at the sudden sound of Gavin’s loud voice and turned in time to see him abruptly stop, staring at her openmouthed.
His surprise quickly turned into a frown. “What are you doing here?”
“Good to see you too.” She waved her arm around in amazement. “This is yours?”
He stared at her then pushed a long breath between pinched lips. “I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant. I was just surprised to see you. Here, that is. And yes, the store is mine.”
She stared back, not sure if she should be mad, especially since he’d stood her up the night before or feel relieved because she had found him. Again. “I gathered that. Especially since you never called me last night.”
He sighed, offering her a crooked smile. “I know. I’m a giant chicken.”
She shook her head and laughed. “What are you, ten? That was your favorite comeback when you knew you’d done something wrong.” He took her hand, holding it tight to his chest. “Can I interest you in a make-up cheeseburger? I know a really great pub not to far from here.”
She stared at their clasped hands resting over his heart. “Yes, I would definitely be interested in food, especially if you add an Irish coffee to the deal.”
~ ~ ~
Ryanne took a sip of coffee, savoring the hot sweetness, then tilted her head. “So why a jewelry store?”
“I’ve always been more interested in creating things. You know, woodcraft, painting. I played sports for Dad. Making quarterback was his dream and I couldn’t let him down.”
A thoughtful expression stole over her face as she took another sip. “I’ve always known that. The pictures you painted for Mom always ended up on my bedroom walls.”
He groaned. “Please tell me your taste in art has improved.”
She pursed her lips and lightly slapped his arm. “Seriously? I was eight years old!”
“Why were you in the store? Jewelry shopping—or were you interested in the Hopi vases?”
“Neither actually. I came to Sedona to try and sell my jewelry. I think I’ve talked to every shop owner in town. No one will even look at my stuff.”
He pulled something from his shirt pocket and held it out to her. She gasped. In the palm of his hand lay a small silver ring, thin ropes of metal twisting around and creating a simple but unique piece.
She lovingly brushed a finger over the ring. “This was the first thing I made. I worked and worked to get the metal to twist just right.” She met his gaze. “You wore it on your pinky--”
“Until I almost couldn’t get it off. I’ve carried it in my pocket since.” He watched her eyes fill with tears and realized what he’d been missing all those years. Her. Sitting beside Ryanne now, the weight he’d been carrying around since Regan’s death lifted. The air in the pub practically sparkled.
He leaned forward and took her small hand in his. “I’m sorry for everything, Ryanne. But most of all, I’m sorry for all the time I’ve wasted. Please stay. There’s space next to my office. You can use it to make your jewelry then sell it in the store.” He gently brushed her hair back from her face. “Whatever this is—give it a chance? Give me a chance?”
She leaned forward and feathered her lips over his. “All you had to do was ask.” She cupped his cheeks with her hands and pulled him to her, laughter filling her eyes. “I’ve loved you since I was five years old. Do you remember the day we met? I fell out of the tree—“
“And I caught you. Your red hair looked like fire in the afternoon sun, even in pigtails.”
“When Mom tucked me in bed that night, I told her someday I was going to marry you.”
“Sweetheart, your someday is here.”
As they sealed their love with another kiss, neither noticed the sparkling gold light circling the lucky coin. They never heard the small pop when the coin disappeared from its silver bed. Across the room, Aidan smiled, a mischievous gleam lighting up his eyes as he rolled the gold coin over his knuckles and whispered, “Aye, cailín, as I was a sayin’, I’ll be havin’ what’s mine. But, ya have a good heart and I wish ya nothin’ but a wee bit o’ Irish luck. And to ye both, may ye live happily ever after.”