Aiden passed a pint to the old man sitting at the bar. Gnarled fingers latched onto the mug. Aidan barely heard the muttered thank you. His focus was on the six gold coins laying on the bar. It had taken over two hundred years to figure out the key to retrieving his gold. The answer was so simple he should have reasoned it out long ago. He snapped a rag from the rack and wiped down the counter with more force than necessary.
“Careful there, fella.” The man at the counter took another sip from his pint. “Don’t wanna worry a hole in this fine piece of wood, do ye?”
Aidan glared at the shriveled up troll. His grey eyes were too big for his face. His nose crooked down in a severe angle while his thin lips spread into a large toothy grin. An unfortunate combination of features, yet the face was kind. Aidan bit down a nasty retort and swung the towel over his shoulder. “No, ye’re right. I’m a bit preoccupied.”
“Of course I’m right, Aidan.” The old man chortled.
“Do I know ye?” Aidan peered closer, trying to detect a bit of glamour but found no haze around the old man. There was nothing familiar about his patron, but his magic had been stretched beyond the point of usefulness during his matchmaking activities.
“Yer the bartender, aren’t ye? Everyone knows your name. You can call me Odin.”
“Right.” That made sense, but a quiver of anticipation sparked through him. He looked back at the coins carelessly strewn across the counter. Naked. Vulnerable. With a flick his fingers, Aidan cast a charm of protection. Magic fled his body, leaving fatigue in its wake. His magic was almost gone. He didn’t have enough to unite the next couple. That meant he wouldn’t get the seventh coin. Without it, he couldn’t summon the rainbow. He placed his hands against the edge of the counter. He was close. So close. To wait another year would kill him. Now that he knew his way back home, one more year would pass longer than the hundreds he had already endured as a banished leprechaun.
“Don’t look so down, lad.” Odin patted his arm. “Nothing is as bad as you imagine.”
“I don’t know. I can imagine terrible things.” A hard edge tinged his words. It was bad enough he had been sent to this arid desolate place when he lost his pot of gold. To never see his homeland again was unthinkable.
Odin lifted his eyebrows. “You need to find yerself a girl.”
In spite of the dismal future looming before him, a laugh escaped Aidan’s lips. “Thanks for the advice, but a mere girl won’t solve me problems. Can I get you anything else?” He pulled the towel from his shoulder and wiped the counter more vigorously than before. Bent fingers grasped his arm. He regarded the man’s earnest expression and stopped scrubbing.
“Let me give one small piece of wisdom. A girl is always the answer. Love will show you the way.” With that strange sentiment, Odin plopped a single coin onto the bar. “Remember that, my friend.”
Aidan slipped the money into his hand, letting the weight settle in the center of his palm. A tingle of recognition bolted up his arm. “How did you. . .”
But Odin had vanished. Aidan stared at the recently vacated spot puzzling over his good fortune, then back at the coin. He held the last and final piece. Now his gold would call to him. He closed his eyes and waited for the airy pan pipe music to filter back into his awareness. But all he heard was the faint tingle of the bell over the pub door
Aidan opened his eyes. A petite woman stepped into his bar, her dark green skirt blown backward by a breeze that didn’t exist. Long curls of red dropped passed her waist. A slender finger gracefully hooked a loose tress behind her ear. Her eyes were the color of a deep ocean filled with depths he longed to lose himself in. She sauntered up to the counter, her eyes never wavering.
You need to find yerself a girl.
“I believe I found meself one.” His hand flew to his chin, verifying his jaw hadn’t dropped to the floor.
She placed those delicate hands on the counter never uttering a word. She smelled like heather and sunshine. Like home. A wave of vertigo came over him forcing him to steady himself against the bar. As he did, his fingers grazed the gold coins. The sensation sent a jolt of panic through him. He quickly slid the coins from the surface into his pants pocket. Her gaze followed his movements resting on his pocket before she locked eyes with him.
"Can I get ye something?" His strained voice barely audible.
Her lips curved into a broad smile. "Aye, surprise me."
She sat upon a stool with an amused air. He sized her up a moment. She was a woman who liked a deep rich brew. A stout. He filled a stein with the dark foaming liquid and set it before her. And waited. She was here for a reason. He could sense it like clouds gathering for a spring thunderstorm. She sipped the beer regarding him steadily over the rim of the mug. But, alas, said nothing more.
Annoyed, Aidan turned back to the task of wiping the counter surface. At this rate, he really would wear it down to nothing. He was half way along the counter when he felt a tug at his pants. He grasped his pocket. The gold pulsed beneath his palm. With a slither, one of the coins emerged and floated toward the woman's waiting hand. He pulled it out of the air shoving it back into his pocket with the others.
"Are ye after my gold, then?" He swallowed. A sour burn snaked its trail down into his gullet. He bit back the bitter taste as his heart constricted to the size of a pea. She wanted his gold. Not him. He compressed his lips. Why that should bother him so much, he couldn't fathom.
"Nay, ’tis my gold." She said with too much certainty,
"It was you?" Aidan tossed the towel away and covered the space between them in two short strides. He leaned in so close their noses almost touched. Ignoring the dizzying effect her scent inundated him with, he said. "I want me pot of gold back, wench."
"You were stripped of the right to claim that gold the minute you let a human defile its contents." Jenna O'hare scrutinized her adversary. He was thin with just enough muscles to fill out shoulders at a huggable breadth. Wiry brown hair that refused to be tamed crowned his head. Deep emerald eyes glinted with a sharpness that sent a strange thrill through her. Here was a man who knew how to satisfy his needs. Compelling every female he encountered to submit to his desires. La, apparently, she was no exception. Her eyes traveled to the hidden coins. She noticed the slight bulge just to the right of them. If only he wasn’t her enemy.
"I have suffered through years of exile for that error." He pounded his fist against the oak, disturbing glassware in the process. "But ye couldn't ’ave failed to notice that the coins returned to me not you."
"Is that right?" She wrapped her fingers around her mug. Within the depths of his green eyes burned a passion that went far beyond his anger at having his gold filched from beneath his very nose. "Then how do you explain my presence at the exact time you had collected them all."
"I puzzled out how to retrieve them. Ye aren't here to take them back." With a flick of his wrist he busied himself resetting the toppled glasses, but she knew his attention remained on her. That knowledge wasn't unpleasant. As her eyes drifted back to the gold, she wondered what would happen if she reached deep into his pockets for the coins. Her skin tingled at the thought.
"So sure of yerself are ye?" She jumped off her stool and swung underneath the staff entrance.
"Get out of here." Aidan tried to shoo her away but she stood her ground, inching closer to him until his back was against the cash register. She placed her arms on either side of him pressing against his chest. Her pulse quickened as his breath rose and fell in ragged gasps, uncaring that his presence distracted her from her purpose. She would enjoy his proximity a moment longer. She trailed a finger up his arm allowing the warmth to spread through her entire being. She gazed up at him through hooded lids. "This is nice," she whispered. She hadn’t meant to say it aloud.
He shook his head slowly, gently pushing her aside, cooling the heat between them. "Quit muddling the issue."
She sighed accepting the inevitable. She crossed her arms and leaned against the counter. "I'm Jenna the leprechaun. That's what I do."
"Sure ye are." Aidan headed into the open area clearing off vacated tables as he went. It wasn't his job but he needed to clear his head. Jenna's nearness made it difficult to solve the problem of getting his property back. After over two hundred years, reuniting with his pot of gold was long overdue. He had all seven coins so he didn't need Jenna. Or did he?
He glanced in her direction. She stood poised shamelessly behind the bar watching him without bothering to hide it. Her grin broadened at his attention. What was it about her he found so captivating? To be sure, she was the first leprechaun he had seen in a long time. But it was more than that. Her inner essence glowed sending out an aura full of red, orange, green, yellow, blue, indigo and violet. All the colors of the rainbow. All the colors of home.
He narrowed his eyes on her. If she had his gold then why was she here? Mayhap she needed him. He dropped the plates he carried on a nearby table and turned in her direction.
"Miss me?" She quirked an eyebrow.
"Tell me lass." He descended upon her with more confidence than when she’d first arrived—strange —he was no longer sure his fortune was more important than her. "How are ye enjoying my pot of gold?"
"Immensely, thank you." She blew an errant strand of hair off her face. He resisted the urge to wrap it around his finger.
"Then I’m supposin’ yer need for these seven is nil."
Her eyes grew wide. "Oh, but I do need them."
A low chuckle burst from his chest. "I'd wager, ye haven't even seen my gold."
She bowed her head, drawing clover leafs with her fingers on polished wood. "I don't know what you're talking about."
He lifted her chin until deep blue eyes gazed into his. "I think ye do."
She didn't move. He reveled in the sudden stillness, closing the distance between his lips to hers. The surge of electricity that followed energized every nerve ending in his body. How he longed to stay in that pose for eternity. But he had to be sure of her. Had to know she felt the same. His pulse quickened as he thought of the risk he was taking but he had to know. He forced himself away from her and pulled the coins from his pocket. They plopped on the counter with a clank.
"Let love light the way." He walked away hoping he was right. The worst that could happen was being exiled right where he was. He shrugged. If that was the absolute worst when he desired so much more, then what did it matter?
Jenna watched Aidan walk away. A mixture of relief and disappointment filled her. Her lips still tingled from their kiss. Her breathing still ragged, obstinately refusing to return to normal. She almost shouted after him until the lure of the gold took over. This was the moment she would gain access to the elusive pot of gold. Ownership didn't guarantee the ability to summon the rainbow. She needed all the coins to do that. With one last glance over her shoulder, she grabbed the coins and ran out the door.
Although it was well into evening, the sun blinded her as she stepped onto the rocky terrain the natives called western landscaping. No matter, soon she would be home to the velvet green pastures of Ireland. She ignored the hollow ache in her heart and the niggling voice telling her it wasn't enough. She entered a clearing and raised her fist clasping the gold in the air. She closed her eyes waiting for the gold to call. Her arm went numb and still she waited until it felt like lead weighing her down. She massaged her arm attempting to find the reason she couldn't hear the music of the gold.
"Can't do it, can ye?" Aidan stood in front of her his arm crossed, his smirk mocked her impotence.
"What did you do to them?"
"Nothing. For a leprechaun, ye don't appear to know much about me pot of gold."
"What do you mean?" A fog descended on her mind. He stepped so close she could feel his breath. She leaned in catching the scent of spices and mint. "You're the one who lost it. I doubt you know much more."
His grin was so maddening she wanted to wipe off—or kiss it away. The thought caught her by surprise. "Aye, it took me some time to figure it out. Then I realized seven coins were taken on the heels of love."
"I don't understand."
He cocked his head to one side, those emerald eyes regarding her with amusement and something else. Hope? "Love bound the coins when Finn and his lass, Lady Allison, declared their affection. With every couple that has found love these past few days, I’ve retrieved one coin. I’ve one left, the seventh."
"But, I have them all." She opened her hand. "If they're all here the curse has to be broken."
He shook his head. She steeled herself. How could this man be so daft?
"There's one last couple to unite."
He didn't answer. Instead, he stared at her with a huge grin on his handsome mug.
"Am I missing something?"
He took hold of both her arms squaring her before him. "I was given the seventh coin when Finn and Lady Allison found them. The seventh coin belonged to me."
She froze processing this bit of information. If she followed his logic accurately, that would mean...a heady giggle bubbled up inside her. "You mean?"
"I love ye Jenna. What I need to know is if ye love me, as well."
She flung herself into his arms. "Yes. I do." A surge of joy rushed through her veins followed by a grand sense of relief
He kissed her raising his hand to the sky. The rainbow of colors engulfed them in a splash that melded at the ground shooting buttery golden light back up in response. Amidst the center their pot of gold gleamed. Together Aidan and Jenna stepped into the fold.
"Let's go home."
A small wrinkle furrowed her forehead. "What about your bar?"
"Don't worry, ’tis left it in Ciara's capable hands."
~ The End ~
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
The Wildokie Writers
Thank you, everyone for stopping by to read our St. Patrick's Day stories. We hope you enjoyed.
Stay tuned for our Inspirational series coming soon.