Excerpt for Ghost of the Gaelic Moon by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.

















Ghost of the Gaelic Moon

















Ghost of the Gaelic Moon





Carol Maschke








Copyright ©2017 Carol Maschke



All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.



This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either a product of fiction or are used in a fictitious manner, including portrayal of historical figures and situations. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.



ISBN 978-1-947593-01-5



Cover design by MadCatDesigns

Formatting by Anessa Books

Editor: Marly Cornell





CairnMoon

Minneapolis, Minnesota

www.cairnmoon.com






Contents

PART ONE—Ireland

1 The Dream

2 Sean

3 The Tour

4 Maggie

5 Family Matters

6 The Rescue

7 Flinging

8 Cullamore Ghosts

9 Haunted Places

10 The Problem

11 Marriage

12 Quandary

13 Truth

14 The Necklace

15 The Gaelic Moon

16 Manipulations

17 Vengeance

18 Reawakening

PART TWO—Four Years Later

19 Nightmares

20 Relearning

21 Hatred

22 The Plea

23 Reunion

24 A New Reality

25 The Witch

26 Old Friends

27 A Son

28 The Family

29 Nemesis

30 Allies

31 Gone

32 Night of the Blue Moon

33 Reckoning

34 Home

About the Author







This is dedicated to my mother, Delores Maschke. Despite having a difficult life, she has always done her best for me and I would be nowhere without her. My thanks will never be enough.









Part One









Chapter 1

The Dream



She felt her breath catch in her throat, as he pulled her close and began to nuzzle her neck. She shivered from the sensation, from the feelings that coursed through her body, both physical and emotional. She saw the pure adoration on his face as he watched her and was amazed that the man gazing back at her was everything she wanted, everything she could never put into words. Compact, but strong, with the grace of a dancer, firm butt, strong back, and hands she instinctively knew would please her when given the opportunity. His wavy red hair was unruly. His intense blue eyes watched her as only he could.

When he placed his lips on hers, she knew he could feel her smile. As they kissed, she felt his smile as well. She was the first to open her mouth, allowing him entrance as their tongues touched, tentatively at first, but with growing ardor.

When they broke apart, they looked at each other almost shyly.

“Where have you been all of my life?” he asked in a heated whisper, the lilt of his Irish accent falling softly on her ears.

“America,” she said honestly, and he laughed, a laugh that warmed her heart.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

“For how long?” she asked as he tenderly stroked her face.

“Forever,” he said as he leaned in to kiss her again.

They moaned into each other’s mouth. She felt him pressed against her and, God, how she wanted him, how she loved him! Wait, loved?

She broke off their kiss and gazed into his laughing blue eyes. Yes, she was sure. Yes, she loved him.

Ahh, Mary, I love you so,” he whispered in her ear. “Are you sure you want me in your life knowing what I am?”

“I can’t imagine life without you,” she answered, and moaned as he kissed her again...

Mary woke up abruptly, trying to clear the cobwebs from her mind and calm her raging hormones. She looked around the airplane cabin, hoping she hadn’t embarrassed herself by making any noise, and picked up her book that had slipped onto her lap.

Her traveling companions from work sat with Mary in the airplane. She had the window seat, and her best friend and coworker, Amy, sat next to her. Coworker Paul had the aisle seat, which allowed him to stretch out his long legs.

Thankfully Paul was asleep, but Amy was not. She watched Mary with a gleeful expression on her face. “Good dream?” Amy asked.

Uh, huh.” Mary didn’t want to admit anything.

“Anyone I know?”

“Amy!” Mary whispered fiercely.

“You were making the most interesting sounds.”

“Drop it.”

“Mary?”

“I said, drop it. Let’s talk about something else.”

“You need a boyfriend,” Amy said sincerely.

“Amy!”

“Okay,” she said, searching for a new topic. “Sooo... you seem happy to be going to Ireland?”

“Yes! What’s not to like? My first trip out of the country and it’s somewhere I want to go, courtesy of work.”

“Seems like a nice place for a trip,” Amy agreed.

“Beautiful countryside, pubs, Druids, Guinness, Irish whiskey, New Grange, Waterford crystal, castles, the Blarney stone, and Irish paranormal. See,” she said and flashed the book at Amy. It was about Celtic Druids.

“You’re going to check out Irish paranormal?” Amy was amused.

“When I have time. You know I love a good ghost story.”

Amy laughed. “Mary, I know you have some psychic abilities... but searching for ghosts?”

“Why not? You do what you want, and I’ll do what I want in our down time,” Mary said.

Amy gave her friend a sly smile. “I have a better idea.”

“What’s that?”

“Let’s get you hooked up while we’re in Ireland?” she whispered.

“Amy! No. I’m not interested in a relationship. You know how my last one ended.”

“Who said anything about a relationship? Just a fling, you know, some fun to relieve the stress that you are obviously feeling. I know it’s been awhile since Joe...”

“I don’t want to discuss this,” Mary said firmly.

“I’m not letting you off the hook.”

“No flinging!” Paul said as he opened his eyes. “You know I have designs on Mary. I call first dibs.”

“But she doesn’t want you, Paul.” Amy pointed out to the tall, well-built, blond-haired man scrunched in the seat beside Mary. He may be handsome but he’s not good enough for Mary.

“That isn’t true, is it, Mary?”

Mary expelled a long but sympathetic sigh. “Paul, we’ve talked about this, you know we’re just friends.”

“So you say, but in the end, you won’t be able to resist my charms,” he said with an air of confidence. He turned in his seat to face Mary. “My layover isn’t long, but perhaps we could find a restaurant and have dinner together?”

“Paul, I don’t think there’s time,” Mary demurred. She did her best not to laugh at the glare she felt from Amy. “We’ll see.”

Grumbling, the other two settled back against their seats.

The lights of Dublin were just coming into view, twinkling beyond the darkness of the North Atlantic. Mary shivered, but whether in apprehension or anticipation, she didn’t know.

An hour later the three of them sat in the nicest restaurant at the Dublin airport at Paul’s insistence. He had a three-hour layover and was more than happy to be in their company rather than to wait alone.

Mary listened to Paul politely as he talked about his business trip to Germany and the things he was expected to do while there. She suppressed a laugh when she caught Amy making one of her signature eye rolls.

“Something funny?” Paul asked, showing no sign of humor.

Mary coughed on a chip she was eating. “No, Paul, nothing.”

“So, Mary, I thought maybe I could convince you to come and visit me in Germany?” Paul gave her his best charming smile.

“Sorry, Paul, but I’m much more interested in exploring Ireland. Besides, you’re the hot shot executive with all the money.”

Hmm, you have a point. You don’t make nearly as much as I do.” He nodded as he mused to himself. “All right, I’ll do it.”

“Do what?” Amy asked, putting down her burger.

“I will come back to visit after I get settled. I’m sure I can clear a few days off my calendar.”

“You really don’t have to,” Mary said, trying to sound convincing.

“It’s all right, not a bother at all,” he assured her and surprised her by taking her hand in his.

Mary gently but firmly pulled back her hand. “Paul, really. I don’t want to put you out.”

“Think nothing of it. It will be a present to remind you of my interest.”

“Paul, we’re just friends,” she insisted, “How many times do I have to tell you that?”

“He just wants to check up on you,” Amy said with a grin. “He’s afraid you might go flinging.”

“She wouldn’t do that,” Paul said, drawing himself up. “She wouldn’t take up with a common Irishman.”

Amy snorted. “What if she takes up with an uncommon one?”

“She wouldn’t waste her time,” he said.

Amy regarded Paul in disbelief. “Why? Because she has you? You arrogant, self-serving—”

“Enough!” Mary intervened. “No fighting!”

“Amy needs to fight. She can’t pick on her fiancé now. Why he puts up with you I have no idea,” Paul said in exasperation.

“Come on, Amy,” Mary said, standing and putting her purse over her shoulder.

“And where are we off to?”

“We’ve rented a flat, haven’t we? Let’s go see it. I want to sleep.”

“But I still have two hours before my flight,” Paul whined.

Amy just smirked.

“Fine.” He regrouped and said, “I hope you have a wonderful time while you’re working in Ireland, and I’ll come and visit you as soon as I can.”

“Paul! You really don’t have to.”

“It will be my pleasure.” He took Mary’s hand in his and kissed it, lingering a bit longer than was really necessary, ignoring Amy’s blatant eye roll.

“Bye, Paul,” Mary said.

“Yeah, bye, Paul,” Amy said over her shoulder as she grabbed Mary’s arm and they departed, leaving behind an irritated Paul.

By the time Mary was able to go to bed, the city of Dublin was awakening. She looked out of the window of the flat that the company provided and wondered how those people walking outside could possibly have so much energy? Amazed, she looked over at Amy, her eyes glazing over.

Amy just laughed. “Honey, it’s called jet lag. That’s why I slept on the plane. I promise, you’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

Mary only shook her head as Amy took her arm and guided her to her bed, and somehow she was undressed and tucked under the covers. She blinked up at her friend.

“Thanks,” she murmured. Convinced her eyelids were now made of lead, she closed them and was claimed by sleep.

The dream from the plane was back. Mary relaxed into it as the red-haired Irishman gazed at her in happiness, his blue eyes full of love.

“Who are you?” Mary asked in wonder.

“I’m your lost love, your soul mate,” he said and leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. “And you’ve finally come to find me.”

“You make it sound like we’ve known each other before?” She raised an eyebrow.

“We have, many times, many lives.” He was now nuzzling her neck, sending all sorts of shivers through her body.

“Have we always been lovers?”

“No, but most of the time. And I like it like that,” he said and quietly removed her top, which she willingly let him do. “And I happen to know that you like this,” he murmured and fastened his lips onto her breast, teasing it with his tongue, which elicited an unexpected gasp from her.

“Oh, honey.” She threw her head back, and he laughed softly, giving her other breast the same amount of attention. “Umm” was all she could manage as he traveled down her body, somehow knowing all of her sensitive spots. The feel of his mouth on her again was enough to send her over the edge...

Mary woke up with a gasp, and it took a few moments for her to collect herself. Who was she dreaming about? The dream felt so real. When she thought about him, his face was indistinct, though she was certain of red hair and blue eyes. Her soul mate? Was there really such a thing? Shaking her head, she rolled over in bed, thinking, Maybe Amy was right, maybe it has been too long.

Sleep reclaimed her within moments, and she surrendered to it, a contented smile on her face.

“Come on, Mary, wake up! Rise and shine!” The far-too-cheerful voice woke her out of her satisfying sleep.

Mary decided that being awake was far too much work and pulled the pillow back over her head.

“Mary, wake up.” The pillow was yanked away from her.

“What time is it?” She frowned at Amy.

“Well, let’s see. Four o’ clock. You’ve been asleep for sixteen hours.”

Mary rubbed her eyes and yawned. “It feels like it’s still morning.”

Amy smiled at her. “That’s Minneapolis time, you’re on Irish time now.” She laughed. “You need to take a shower.”

“What? Why?”

“Because we’re going out.”

She yawned again and sank further into her bed.

“Oh no you don’t.” Amy grabbed Mary’s arm and pulled her up off the bed. “Go get ready. We’re meeting people at a pub down the street.”

“We are?” Mary stopped and blinked in astonishment. “But we just got here.”

“We are.” Amy threw a towel at her and pushed her into the bathroom and shut the door behind her.

The Shamrock was on a side street off O’Connell, Dublin’s main drag. It didn’t quite have the status of the Temple bar area, but it was an old bar with a steady stream of regulars and visitors. Located next to several of the city’s best restaurants didn’t hurt business either.

Inside the pub was an odd mix of contemporary and old world. The tables and chairs that covered most of the floor area were modern and uncomfortable in Sean’s opinion—black acrylic material—something easy to clean but unattractive. The old wooden booths on one side of the pub had been replaced with more of the same, along with modern art decor.

The other side was still as it had always been—well-worn, comfortable booths, and tables stained by food and too many beers. The bar was the original, installed more than a hundred years ago. The new owner bought the pub in the middle of renovations over three years ago. He said he would put things back the way they had been, but he had not quite got around to it, despite a profitable business. The new owner was a bit tight with his money, which meant the pub remained stuck in transition.

The place was somewhat crowded, but not bad for a weeknight, Sean thought as he climbed onto his usual barstool. Kevin, a friend from work, was already at the bar. Sean sat beside him, placed his order, and drummed his hands impatiently on the bar as he looked around.

“Anything wrong?” Kevin inquired, pulling a long draught from his beer.

“No, why?”

“You seem agitated.”

Sean made a noncommittal noise.

Kevin continued. “Say, Sean?”

“Yes?”

Kevin raised his eyes and indicated a group of women across the room. “Some very fine women are here tonight. You should socialize.”

Sean shrugged. “Maybe later.”

“Maybe now. My guess is it wouldn’t be too hard for you to find a lady if you wanted to.” Kevin searched his friend’s face, looking for some sort of acknowledgment.

“You’re assuming I want a woman in my life.”

“Don’t you? Doesn’t every man?”

Sean laughed. “I did once, but not anymore.”

Kevin looked at him in disbelief. “You’re joking, right? Tell me, Sean. How long has it been since you’ve been with a woman?”

Sean sighed, turned away from his friend, and ran his finger around the rim of his beer glass. “If I tell you that, how do I know everyone here won’t know about it tomorrow?”

“You don’t. Just answer the question.”

He frowned. “A long time.”

“You’ve been separated for years. You must be as randy as they get! Come on, Sean, go out with a woman. Do yourself a favor.”

“It’s not that bad, you get used to it after a while,” he said, scowling at his friend.

“Yeah, right.”

“Stop meddling in my personal life.”

“Whatever you say, Sean, but you might want to take a look.” Kevin gestured to a small group of people at a nearby table. “I think they’re Americans, and they are quite pretty.”

Sean watched him suspiciously, but turned to see what Kevin found so appealing and was pleasantly surprised to see two amazingly lovely women. They wore simple knee-length skirts, and form-fitting blouses. The shorter of the two had close-cropped blonde hair, with a lovely oval-shaped face. An air of enthusiasm about her was unmistakable. The other woman had shoulder-length dark-brown hair and a pretty face. Sean watched her smiling at her friend. He was captivated by the warmth and humor of that perfect smile. He found himself wondering if he could get her to smile for him.

Mary laughed at another of Amy’s typical off-color jokes and sipped her drink. She looked unobtrusively around the pub and noticed a cute man with unkempt red hair staring in their direction from the bar. When he saw her looking at him, he offered a genuine, sweet smile, and raised his glass in acknowledgment.

Startled, she focused again on what Amy was saying, but curiosity got the better of her. She stole a glance at the bar only to find the red-haired man was gone.

Later at their flat, around two a.m., Amy finally called it a night. Mary was still not sleepy. She sat on the sofa in the living room, looking out the window at the silent street illuminated by city lamps. Mary could hear the faint sound of voices through the open window. The soft lilt of their cadence fell pleasantly on her ears. Without conscious thought, she remembered the attractive man who had watched her from the bar. He had a kind face and a sweet smile. She wondered if he had blue eyes too. After a few moments, she drifted off to sleep.







Chapter 2

Sean



The picture stared back at Sean. As always, he wondered why he had been so enamored of his ex. Maggie was an unmistakable beauty—the long, lustrous auburn locks cascaded about her face and down her back. Her green eyes burned with a sultry passion, and she had the sweetest pair of lips a man could want. Her body had curves in all the right places, but her face held a cold beauty that reflected the state of her soul. He touched the photo and marveled at the happy faces of both Maggie and himself and wondered how that moment in time could ever have happened. He didn’t remember ever being happy with Maggie. He placed the picture on the shelf, face down. He didn’t know why he kept the picture; everything about it was a falsehood, an illusion. He was eternally grateful that part of his life had ended. It served as a reminder that he should not be involved in a relationship again.

His thoughts drifted back to the American woman he saw at the pub. Her dark hair fell in a very appealing way as it flowed about her shoulders, and she had the most amazing smile. That kind of warmth was something Sean had rarely seen of late. With a touch of sadness, he realized he had grown cynical in recent years. He couldn’t believe that a gesture as amazingly simple as her smile could touch him in a way Maggie never had.

He turned off the light and left the small study.

A week later, the workers from Livingston International went to see their new work place. Mary marveled at Amy’s easy ability to drive on the wrong side of the road and find her way around a new city, with only two wrong turns on the way. They showed up at their new place of employment only twenty minutes later, laughing about their mishaps.

The building was small by American standards, clean and compact, with tight hallways and rooms. If employees could manage not to crash into each other during their frantic work periods, everything would be fine. The computer setup was in disarray, wiring and terminals everywhere. If this didn’t change quickly, Mary could see the work taking much longer than the projected four months. She wondered if sabotaging their efforts would afford them a longer stay in Ireland? She laughed at her audacity.

Several hours later, Amy and Mary finished for the day. They were far from done, but at least their mess was starting to resemble an organized clutter. They sat back and looked at each other, happy to relax at last.

“I think we deserve a break,” Amy said, rolling her eyes and rubbing her sore butt. “This has exceeded my work capacity.”

Mary laughed. “The Shamrock?”

“Sounds good. Let’s go back and clean up, then we can work on getting you a date.” Amy grinned at her friend.

“You’re impossible,” Mary said as she got up. “Come on, let’s go home.”

The jet lag had finally gone away, and Mary felt better able to observe the city around her. She saw the pub for the first time in the light of day. The building was a basic stone-and-wood structure, much older than the modern buildings only a block away. It was worn with age that only added character. A quaint wooden sign hung over the doorway, proclaiming it proudly as The Shamrock.

Once inside, Mary noted that, although the pub was busy, it wasn’t reverberating with the noisy music of a loud club. She decided she liked it. Spotting an empty booth near the bar, she waved Amy over to it. Mary smiled, picked a side, and slid into the booth.

Amy shook her head, laughed, and slid in across from Mary. “So what’s with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You practically ran in here.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did, but why?” Amy asked suspiciously.

Mary only smiled, but found herself looking over to the bar to see if that Irishman with the sweet smile was still around. Seeing no sign of him, she sighed and turned back to Amy.

“I’ll be right back,” Mary said, slipping off her coat and leaving it in the booth as she headed for the restroom.

“I’ll get the first round,” Amy volunteered and went up to the bar.

The bartender was busy, so she waited by the bar as a red-haired Irishman she assumed was a regular stepped up beside her. She noticed how the man’s blue eyes twinkled with friendliness.

She greeted him, “Hi, I’m Amy.”

“I’m Sean. Pleased to meet you.” He smiled, recognizing her from the night before. “You’re American, aren’t you?”

“It must be my Yankee accent that gives me away.”

“Something like that.” Sean waved over the bartender. “Will you take care of my new friend, please?”

“I’d be happy to, Sean, but I’m a little busy.”

Sean took Amy’s order and turned away.

She regarded her new acquaintance with interest. He was on the shorter side of six feet—trim build, pleasant and boyish face, mischievous blue eyes, unruly red hair, and a charming smile. Not too terribly bad of a prospect for only having been in Ireland for one week. She deemed him appropriate for a fling with Mary, provided he was a decent man.

“What brings you to our fine country?” Sean asked.

“Work, lots of work. The company I work for just acquired a company here in Ireland. Mary and I were brought over to help with setup.”

“Mary?” he inquired and couldn’t help but glance over at the dark-haired woman who was now sitting in the booth waiting for her friend to return.

Amy gestured back at the booth and smiled at him, “Yeah, Mary. Great friend and coworker.”

“And what is it you do?”

“I’m with Livingston Incorporated. We’re completing a merger with InterTech Limited. I’m a computer consultant for networking.”

“I’m in the Domestic Sales Division of Irish Build.”

“Oh, a salesman?” Amy arched her eyebrow at Sean, and he laughed.

“Of a sort. Vice-president, actually.”

“Congratulations,” she said.

“Thanks.”

At that moment, the bartender returned with Amy’s drink order and placed it on the bar before her. Sean waved off Amy’s payment and, despite Amy’s protests, insisted that it be put on his tab.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Amy grumbled insincerely.

“Consider it a welcome-to-Ireland treat.”

Amy was quite taken with his smile. She felt the tendrils of hope as a matchmaker creeping up within her.

“I don’t normally ask this, but you’ve been more than generous, and you’re the first native I’ve actually met here. Would you mind coming over to the table and meeting my friend? Everything is still new to us, and we could use some advice about Irish life, and the touristy things to see while we’re here.”

“I would be delighted,” Sean said.

Sean followed Amy back to the booth where Mary was sitting. He couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his face.

“Mary, this is Sean, an actual Irishman. He was nice enough to buy drinks for us. Isn’t that great?” Amy was bubbling over, as usual.

“Pleased to meet you,” Sean said politely as he felt the two sets of feminine eyes appraising him. He smiled at both women, but his gaze rested on Mary.

Mary saw the most amazing pair of blue eyes. Beautiful, clear as a deep-blue ocean, and full of devilment and curiosity. They were eyes she somehow knew, and she felt a spark of inexplicable familiarity. She responded with a slow, happy smile of her own.

“Sean, please join us,” Amy said. She slid unobtrusively to the outside edge of the booth, trying to will the Irishman into Mary’s side of the booth.

“Please join us,” Mary said, still smiling.

“All right,” Sean said and slid in beside Mary.

Mary blushed and moved away to give Sean more room. She hadn’t expected her temporary crush to be sitting next to her. It didn’t help when she looked across at Amy, who gave her an outlandish grin. Mary knew she had been set up. She kicked her friend under the table and was pleased as Amy smothered a yelp.

“Where is it you ladies from? I mean besides the US.”

“Minnesota,” Amy said.

“Where’s that?”

“The upper Midwest, west of Chicago,” Mary said. “Have you ever been to the US?”

“No, I never had the pleasure. I guess I’m a bit of an Irish lad, a homebody I’ve been called.” He rubbed his chin and laughed softly.

“What a coincidence, that’s what we’re always saying about Mary,” Amy said.

“Really?” Sean’s gaze was curious. “You seem quite social to me.”

“Thanks,” Mary said and glanced at him. “But I am kind of a homebody.”

“Then what are you doing way over here in Ireland?”

“Work. It was just luck that they sent us here; I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland.”

“Well, I’m glad you’ve deigned to grace our fair land with your lovely presence,” he said, offering a charming smile and, remembering that Amy was at the table, included her as well.

“You’re very sweet,” Mary said and offered him a shy smile. They looked at each other for a moment. Amy was grinning, but neither noticed.

After a long moment, Sean asked, “How long will you be in Ireland?”

“We’re not sure yet. It depends how long the company needs us to be here,” Amy said.

“Probably a few months at least,” Mary said and looked away from Sean.

“Or until Mary decides to go rogue and start her own business.” Amy said, revealing a new topic of conversation about her friend.

“Oh, what’s that? You’re interested in having your own business?” He seemed genuinely curious.

“Well, yes, maybe.” Mary ducked her head, unsure about sharing her aspirations with a stranger.

“What kind of business?”

“I’m not sure. I mean, I work in IT now, and I’m a great manager, but I was thinking maybe something different would excite me.”

“I’ve often thought about having my own business,” he admitted.

“What holds you back?” Amy asked.

Sean shrugged. “Guess I’m making too much money doing what I do. It seems I’ve gotten complacent,” he gave a polite smile. “But if you are here for a few months, perhaps I’ll have the pleasure of your company from time to time?”

“That would be great. Maybe you could show us around? Mary is interested in history. And movies, especially Star Wars stuff, and the paranormal.”

“History? Star Wars?” Sean smiled at her. “I like those too… but the paranormal? Are you looking for Irish ghosts? Creatures that go bump in the night?”

“Well, not exactly.” Mary tried to control her self-conscious smile. “I’m just fascinated with the afterlife, the existence of spirits.”

Sean gave a gentle snort in amusement. “Sure you’re not Catholic?”

“No, Protestant,” Mary said.

“Is that a problem?” Amy asked, hoping her early matchmaking attempts hadn’t already derailed.

He shrugged. “No, I was raised as a good Catholic boy, but must admit my behavior has lapsed somewhat.”

“So you’re a bad Catholic boy?” Amy teased.

“Not exactly,” he said, blushing. He saw that Mary was watching him with interest and a warm look that had him reacting on several levels. Steering the conversation to a safer topic, he said, “I would be happy to show the two of you around Dublin.”

“That would be nice,” Mary said, gazing again into his clear blue eyes.

They stared at each other for another long moment.

Sean cleared his throat. “My apologies, but I think I’d best be going. I’m sure you have things to attend to, and I promised myself to not be out too late tonight.”

“Why’s that?” Mary asked.

“Early business meeting,” he said with a grimace. He reached inside of his jacket and pulled out a business card, which he handed to Mary. “Feel free to call me. I would be happy to give you ladies a tour.”

Mary retrieved her purse and dug through it, at last finding her wallet. She pulled out her business card and handed it to Sean.

“Here’s where you can find me, though I’m not sure the phones work yet,” she said with a sigh.

“Thank you,” Sean nodded. “I look forward to our next meeting.” He slid out of the booth and gave them a half bow before he returned to the bar. He stopped for a minute, spoke with the bartender, and left the pub.

Amy smiled happily, noting that Mary’s gaze followed Sean’s every movement until he departed.







Chapter 3

The Tour



Work was crazy the next day, too many things to set in order and too little time. The techs were busy trying to get things on track and having varying degrees of success. Issues that came up were put in front of Mary to solve. She prioritized them, instructing her team to work through the most urgent items first. She was contemplating what to do with the current networking problem when Amy opened her door and ran into the room with a huge smile on her face.

“Yes?” Mary asked, amused at Amy’s disheveled appearance. Her tattered sweatshirt hung off her shoulder and her T-shirt had pulled out of her pants, exposing part of her midriff. “Something I can do for you?”

“No, it’s what I can do for you.” Amy was bouncing on her toes.

“What do you mean by that?” Mary inquired suspiciously.

“He’s here.”

“Who?”

“Your Irish friend.”

“What?” Mary’s mouth dropped open. “Sean?”

Amy nodded in excitement, her head bobbing up and down quickly. “Did you plan a date with him?”

“No,” Mary said, clutching at her casual, well-worn sweatshirt and glancing down at her faded jeans. “I can’t see him like this. I wasn’t expecting anyone. I mean, look at me!”

Amy briefly eyed her up and down. “I think it will be okay. You have a shirt underneath, right?”

“Yeah, but it’s a torn T-shirt.”

Amy bit her lip. “Maybe he’ll like that. Besides, we’re all in our grubbies. ”

Mary shook her head. “He’ll think I’m gross.”

“Not if he likes you. Maybe you should find out.”

“No.” Mary shook her head and planted her feet. “I won’t do it. I just won’t.”

With some amazement, she found herself being led to the lobby by an all-too-enthusiastic Amy, who, using her best professional demeanor, promised to keep her bouncing to a minimum.

Sean was sitting quietly in the lobby, leafing through a magazine. He was dressed in a casual business suit, no tie, just a dark-green turtleneck. His curly red hair appeared uncombed, but Mary imagined it must always be like that. He set aside the magazine and stood up as the two women entered the room.

“My apologies, I didn’t mean to interrupt you at work.”

“It’s fine, we needed a break anyway,” Amy replied smoothly.

“No problem,” Mary agreed. Her gaze lingered on the floor for a moment and back to Sean. “I’m sorry about my appearance; we’re still setting up and…”

“You look fine,” he said, smiling at Mary. Glancing at Amy standing next to her, he added, “Both of you. And I do understand how hard it is to set up a business.” He paused. “I remembered where you worked and, since you don’t know Dublin, I wondered if you’d thought about my offer as a tour guide?”

Mary couldn’t contain the smile that crept across her face. “That’d be wonderful. I mean, if you’re certain we wouldn’t use up too much of your time.”

“It would be my pleasure.” Sean bowed to her.

“Amy, isn’t this great?”

When Mary didn’t receive a response from Amy, she looked over her shoulder and saw that Amy was no longer in the room.

“I think she left,” Sean said with a smile. He watched her for a moment, pleased at the blush creeping up her face. “So what do you think? I would be happy to show you around, and Amy, too.”

She gave him a shy smile. “I can’t speak for her, but I would like that.”

“Please call me when you’re ready.” He stepped closer to her and extended his hand.

“All right.” Mary stared into those blue eyes again. As she accepted his handshake, she forgot that she had only met this man a short time ago. He stared back and made no move to leave as they continued to hold hands. There was an unmistakable jolt of electricity between them and memories of her dreams came back to Mary. She dropped her head as she felt the heat rising in her cheeks.

“Call me?” Sean’s pleasant Irish lilt fell softly on her ears.

She nodded and watched as Sean turned and walked away.

Why did I do that? What has possessed me? Sean hadn’t made such an overture to a woman in over four years. He knew to not get involved with anyone. Relationships were painful—Maggie taught him that. But here he was, standing outside the building where this American woman worked, and feeling like a lad trying to get his first date. With a last look back at the building, he put up his collar against the cool, damp day and began walking back toward his office.

I shouldn’t be friends with a woman, especially an American woman. He doubted an American would understand the Irish way of things. He was sure that separation must mean something completely different in the States. He knew that couples in the United States had been able to get divorced for many, many years. Divorce was relatively new in Ireland and could be a complicated process, only legally approved a year ago, in 1997. He should have sought an annulment when his marriage ended twelve years before, but given Maggie’s mental issues, it had somehow seemed cruel. And since he had no intentions of being in a serious relationship again, he had let things rest, living a life separate from his wife. But why was he thinking such things anyway? It wasn’t as if he had any intentions of having a relationship with anyone, not even the lovely Mary. She was only here on a temporary sojourn anyway. But surely she wouldn’t mind having a fine Irishman such as himself as a friend?

His steps quickened as he approached the modern office building where he worked.

If only he could stop thinking about her smile, the way that T-shirt seemed to cling to her, the tear that revealed just a bit of her nicely toned abdomen. He’d been a fool about this. Maybe she wouldn’t call. Maybe she would. At the moment, he wasn’t sure what he wanted…

Sean received the call the next day at work. He sat at his desk, rapidly adding up a column of sales figures on the calculator, and then ran the total again. He frowned as the numbers still refused to add up correctly. The intercom buzzed, and he regarded it with annoyance for interrupting his concentration.

“Yes, Miss O’Brien?”

“Sorry to interrupt, sir, but you have a call. It’s an American, a Miss Kelley. She says she’s calling to schedule an appointment with you.”

Sean smiled and leaned back in his chair with a tired sigh and ran a hand through his unruly hair, pleased at the unexpected distraction. The curiosity in his secretary’s voice was all too apparent. In his current position, he dealt with very few American vendors, or international vendors for that matter. A phone call from an American was most unusual. And a woman besides! The only women who had called him at work over the last three years were his mother, his sister and, unfortunately, his wife Maggie. He could already hear the rumor mills starting.

“Sir? Shall I put her through?”

“Yes, please do.” He waited patiently for his phone to ring. When he knew enough time had passed for him to receive the call, he buzzed his secretary again.

“Miss O’Brien? Didn’t you send me my call?”

“I transferred the call in to you, Mr. Calhoun.”

“I never got it.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Maybe she’ll call back.”

Sean shut off the intercom, surprised that missing Mary’s call bothered him. Maybe she had just gotten interrupted at work. Maybe their phone system wasn’t working properly. He stared at the phone for all of five seconds before he picked it up and began dialing Mary’s number.

Mary had just replaced the receiver, mentally chastising herself for her actions. She knew she should have talked to him, but she’d panicked. Damn. Since when did this type of thing start making me nervous?

“Mary?” a coworker’s voice called, and she poked her head around the corner. “You have a phone call. It’s a Sean something or another.”

“Thanks,” Mary said and got up from her desk. “Transfer it here.” She took a deep breath, composed herself, and picked up the phone.

“Hello.”

“Mary?”

She tried to ignore the feeling of warmth his Irish brogue created within her.

“Oh, hello, Sean.” She tried to calm her racing heart.

“Did you just try phoning? It seems we got cut off.”

“I’m sorry. We’re still having problems with our phone system.”

Ahh, I thought as much. No problem. What can I help you with?”

“I was hoping you’d still be willing to be a tour guide?”

“Of course,” he said, and Mary could hear the smile in his voice.

“Good. It would be Amy and me.”

“Brilliant. When would you like to go?”

They discussed it for a couple of minutes and agreed that the upcoming Saturday would work fine. Sean said, “Grand. Shall I meet you at your office?”

“No, let’s not meet here. Let’s meet at the Shamrock.”

“All right, nine in the a.m.”

“I’ll see you then,” Mary said softly as Amy entered the room without knocking. She watched Mary hang up the phone and gaze off into space, a sweet smile on her face.

Cullamore was a small, quiet town, nestled among the green hillsides in Ireland about an hour and a half out of Dublin, near the middle of the country, but somehow it remained off the beaten path and its isolation only served to enhance its sleepy beauty. It was small as towns went and could almost be considered a large village, with many old homes built from stone and clay, and only a few buildings that could be termed modern. A small main street ran the length of the town, with many small businesses lining both sides of the street—fabric store, a tailor, a small convenience store, a food store, a gas station, and an antique store. Several other small shops were located throughout the town on roads less traveled. The actual heart of the town was The Gaelic Moon, a pub not too far off the main street. Occupants of the town gathered to discuss their day, complain about what was right and wrong, drown their sorrows, or just relax.

The Gaelic Moon was in the oldest building in town and said to be the oldest pub in all of Ireland. No one could remember when the building hadn’t been there. Made of stone and wood, and built around ancient pillars that were said to be druidic in nature, the myth was that The Gaelic Moon was built on the foundation of an ancient druidic temple. Due to its age and mysterious origins, many tales of the supernatural were associated with The Gaelic Moon. The locals took delight in these folk tales and often told them to travelers while expressing their affection for their local pub.

The place was quiet on a Wednesday evening, as a few of the locals argued about their unofficial dart contest. A few men conversed at the bar with Donald. Maggie sat at a table with Patrick.

Maggie studied Patrick for a moment and once again realized that he was a handsome man. Tall and muscular, his dark hair hung into his stern brown eyes. He had a nice smile, but somehow it never seemed genuine. In her mind, Patrick had always been just Patrick, a little slow upstairs, but loyal as a dog, and totally devoted to her. She knew she had only to ask and Patrick would do whatever she wanted. She seldom had to use a spell on him. She liked that.

“Patrick, I know I can win him back,” Maggie said.

“Oh, but Maggie, why? It’s been years, you should know by now that he doesn’t want you,” he said, staring at his beautiful companion.

“Patrick, try to think with your brains.”

He glared at her.

“Will you help me?”

“You know I’ll do anything for you, but why waste your time? Why can’t you let this go?”

“It’s not a waste of time. He still loves me,” she insisted with a glare at him.

“He doesn’t. You’re separated, for God’s sake!” He sighed. “It doesn’t matter, I’ll change his mind.” She insisted.

“You haven’t yet, and it’s been years,” Patrick muttered.

“You’re just saying that because you don’t like him.”

“We don’t like each other,” Patrick’s eyes were filled with a dark anger. “He doesn’t love you, Maggie, he never has.”

Maggie slapped him, hard. “You shouldn’t be jealous,” she growled.

Patrick rubbed his cheek and counted to ten as he controlled his temper.

“Oh, Patrick, I’m sorry.” She grasped his hand, giving him an apologetic smile. “Forgive me?” She squeezed his hands, using her natural ability and pretty smile to influence him.

He looked at her, knew he shouldn’t, but couldn’t refuse. “Yes, as always.”

“Good.” She squeezed his hand, and leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

“Whatever you say, Maggie, whatever you say.”

The threatening gray clouds did nothing to dispel Mary’s good spirits as she dressed and prepared for her day. She hummed to herself as she got ready in the bathroom, happy that she’d be seeing Sean again. She was surprised when she got out of the bathroom to find that Amy, the early riser, hadn’t emerged from her bedroom yet.

“Amy?” she said, knocking on the door, “are you all right?”

“Come in,” said a strange croaking voice from inside.

She found her friend shivering in bed, covers pulled up to her chin.

“I’m sorry. I’m sick,” she mumbled.

“Really? You seemed fine yesterday.” Mary folded her arms in front of her and regarded her friend skeptically.

“Mary, I’m really sick,” Amy said with a miserable, pathetic look at her friend.

Mary took a step toward her, and Amy let go of a tremendous sneeze, causing Mary to retreat to the doorway. “I guess you’ll have to go without me,” Amy rasped. “Go on, have fun.”

Mary regarded her friend with a dubious expression.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing. Only that…well…I’d be more comfortable if you came with me.”

“But you’ll have a better chance to get to know him if I’m not there. That’s a good thing,” she said with a bit too much enthusiasm and then remembered to cough.

“I don’t know...” Her heart was starting to pound, but whether with fear or excitement, she didn’t know. This was suspiciously starting to resemble a date. “You’re really sick?”

“Terrible. Must be the flu.” She sniffled appropriately.

Mary regarded her with suspicion but, with a nod, she closed the bedroom door and left.

Amy lay in bed, waiting until Mary left, shutting the outside door behind her. Throwing back the covers, Amy jumped out of bed, chortling with glee. She stopped, looked at the door thoughtfully, and walked over to the phone in the main room. She picked up the phone and dialed a number that she knew well as she waited for the call to go through.

“Rob?”

“Amy, sweetheart, what time is it?” a sleepy male voice answered.

“Does it matter? I miss you.” She held the receiver as close as possible to her.

“Honey, I miss you too, but couldn’t we talk about this in the light of day?”

“Oh, the time difference, I forgot.”

“What’s up?”

“I just miss you.”

“I love you, Amy. Better now?” She could hear him stirring on the other end of the connection.

“Yeah. Will you please come see me?”

“I’ll see what I can do. All right, since I’m up anyway, why don’t you tell me about Ireland…” his voice soothed her and she sat down on the couch recount her latest adventures.

Saturday morning in Dublin was anything but pretty. The sky was gray and overcast, and the forecast was for all-day showers. Sean studied the dismal sky before entering the pub and wondered how stout-hearted these Americans were. Rain in Ireland was a normal thing, a good part of the reason it was called the Emerald Isle, and that was all the damn rain! He ducked into the pub, waved at Ginny, the bartender on duty, and looked around. At nine a.m. things were quiet, only stragglers left from the breakfast crowd.

After twenty minutes, he decided he had waited long enough and stood up to take one last stroll about the bar. More disappointed than he cared to admit, he shoved his hands in the pocket of his trench coat and turned to leave.

Just as he was reaching for the door, it opened so suddenly that Sean went tumbling backward to the floor. Mary tripped and fell on top of him, into his arms. As he tried to disentangle himself from the arms and legs that flailed about him, he realized Mary was a shapely woman. Her soft brown hair fell against his face, obscuring his vision. He inhaled her subtle, flowery scent and found himself reluctant to part with the sensations that surrounded him.

After a few more long seconds, they straightened out enough to separate. With some reluctance, Sean let her go and assisted her to her feet.

“I’m really sorry,” Mary stammered at Sean. “I’m usually not so clumsy; I don’t make a habit of falling into a man’s arms...” She panicked, thinking her words felt inappropriate once again.

Sean laughed and gestured to himself. “Mary, it’s all right, no harm done.”

“You were leaving?” Mary tried to hide her disappointment. “You don’t want to do the tour?”

“Of course I do. It’s just I didn’t think you were coming.”

“Oh, because I’m late.” She grimaced. “Sorry, Amy’s sick and I had to make sure she was all right before I left.” She gazed at him uncertainly. “I guess it will just be the two of us. Amy told me to go ahead and enjoy my date.”

Sean regarded her curiously. “Date?”

Oops,” she offered a weak smile. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

He sighed, took one of Mary’s hands in his own, and looked into her hazel eyes, now dark with uncertainty.

Mary tried to ignore the fact that a simple touch was making her heart pound fast.

“I have to be honest with you,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll be great friends, but I’m not searching for more.” He studied her face and was relieved when she smiled at him.

“It’s okay, I’d like to be friends.”

“Good. Are you ready for the tour then?” He smiled.

She nodded.

Holding the door for her, he followed her out.

The pavement was dry, as the rain stopped midday, but the clouds refused to let the sun shine, so the day remained bleak. Somehow it didn’t bother Sean in the least, and he smiled as he regarded the woman at his side.

When the tour was over, it had been a fantastic day. Never in his life had he enjoyed seeing Dublin as much as he had today, through her eyes, nor had he ever viewed it with such enthusiasm. He doubted he would ever regard it with the same blandness again, all because of Mary. How could someone he had known for such a short time have such an effect on him?

They stopped at the bottom of the steps outside of her flat, suddenly awkward in each other’s company.

At last Sean cleared his throat and extended his hand. “It’s been an incredibly lovely day, and I thank you for spending it with me.”

“Despite that too-spicy curry?” She smiled, her hazel eyes twinkling.

“Yes, despite that.” He laughed. “Ahh, Mary.” He opened his arms, and she fell into them. They hugged, and when she moved to leave, he found himself unable to let go. They looked into each other’s eyes, and he kissed her, a sweet, gentle kiss that she returned. He kissed her sweetly again, but longer before gently disengaging himself.

“Goodnight Mary,” he turned and left before she could say anything. She waved, but he never looked back.

The ride up the elevator seemed interminably long. Sean waited impatiently for the door to open. He rubbed his temple and tried to get a grip on his unexpected emotions. What was this woman doing to him?

The elevator doors opened, and Sean stepped out into the hallway. With a weary sigh, he dug the keys out of his pocket and put them into the lock, but was surprised when the knob turned and the door opened easily. Cautiously, he reached inside the door and flipped on the kitchen lights.

“Hello... ?” he called and stepped apprehensively into his apartment.







Chapter 4

Maggie



The apartment was quiet as he entered, and a quick scan revealed nothing out of place or missing. Feeling uneasy, Sean carefully opened the closet door, retrieved a handcrafted walking stick he picked up some time ago, and began to check out the rest of his place.

The living room and dining room were clear, but in the kitchen were crumbs and the remainder of a hastily consumed muffin. An abandoned butter knife lay carelessly among the crumbs.

He frowned and tapped the counter with his fingers, trying to remember why this seemed familiar to him. The sudden clarity of it caused him to groan out loud. How the hell could she have gotten a key? No, he could guess how that happened. Her sex appeal was enough to undo even the most chaste of men. She had probably given the landlord some sad story, a lie she told so convincingly that the man had no choice but to believe her.

Damn her to hell!

By the time he reached the bedroom door, he was furious. He threw it open so hard that it banged against the wall. He glared at his beautiful wife, who lay on his bed, clad in only a red lace bra and matching panties, leaving nothing to the imagination. She gave him a sultry smile.

“Welcome home, Sean,” Maggie purred.

Mary closed the door quietly behind her as she entered the flat, not wanting to wake Amy. She hung up her coat, removed her shoes, and tiptoed down the hallway to her room. She jumped, startled by Amy’s voice as she passed the living room.

“It’s about time you got home,” Amy teased.

“Do you always lurk about late at night, waiting to scare people?” Mary snapped and put a hand to her heart.

Nah, only you. Come on in,” she invited, “I have some hot cocoa waiting.”

Ooh, that sounds good. Just give me a minute to change into something warmer.”

Mary returned a few minutes later, wearing a comfortable pair of sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and an oversized pair of warm, fuzzy Tasmanian Devil slippers. Before joining Amy on the couch, she punched Amy in the arm.

Ow! What was that for?”

“For setting me up. Again.” She smiled and punched her again. “And that’s because you’re not sick.”

Ow!” Amy rubbed her arm. “But it’s the first time I set you up with Sean, and it couldn’t have been too bad—you’re still smiling.”

Mary reached for the warm cup of chocolate that sat on the end table but didn’t speak, knowing her silence was torture to Amy.

Amy groaned. “Come on, out with it. Tell me what happened.”

Mary sipped the warm liquid and sighed contentedly.

“Come on, come on, stop holding back. Tell me.”

“There isn’t much to tell.” Mary shrugged. “He took me around the sights of Dublin which, by the way, are very cool. We had a nice day together.”

Amy sat back against the couch, disappointed. “That’s it?”

“That’s it. He only wants to be friends.”

“But he’s so cute! And charming.”

Mary shrugged.

“And you just want to be friends with him?”

“Why not? He’s nice.”

Amy looked at her friend as if she had lost her mind. “Mary, you know I have your best interests at heart?

“Yes,” Mary nodded.

Amy took Mary’s hands within her own, squeezed them, and looked into her friend’s face. “Trust me when I tell you this. It’s time for you to be more than friends with a man. Have a fling! Enjoy yourself! It’s not a crime.”

“I know that; I’m just not ready.”

“Well, when will you be ready? It’s been how long now?” Amy speculated with a raising of her eyebrow.

“None of your damn business,” Mary replied calmly.

“Hello! Haven’t you heard anything I’ve said?” Amy threw up her hands in exasperation. “If all this guy wants is to be friends, find someone else.”

“But I like Sean.” Mary was looking beyond the windows at something Amy couldn’t see. “I feel as if I’ve always known him, like we’ve been together before.” She blinked and looked back at her friend. “But that isn’t possible, is it?”

“No, and it’s another good reason to find somebody else.”

“What?”

“If you like him, you’re already forming an attachment. You don’t want that for a fling. You want someone whose company you can enjoy, but will have no trouble leaving behind.”

“I don’t think I’m cut out for this. What’s the point of that? What good is a relationship without feeling?” she asked dubiously.

“That’s the point of a fling—not to have a real relationship, just to enjoy the benefits. Come on, Mary, you can do it.” Amy squeezed her friend’s hands, seeing the woebegone expression on her face. “It’ll be all right. It’s not that hard, and I’ll help you.”

“Oh, but Amy—”

“No, it’s all taken care of. We’ll search for your fling partner tomorrow.” Amy positively glowed with enthusiasm as she trounced out of the room.

Alone with her thoughts, Mary finished the last of her cocoa and set down the mug on the small table, settling back against the sofa cushions as she stared out the window at the semi-darkness of the city.

Maybe Amy is right. Maybe I should give up my lofty goals of finding the true love of my life and settle for a fling. It did seem more practical to find a man to provide companionship and sex while she was here. The heart didn’t need to be involved. The fling would be less exciting that way, but she would also survive it without a broken heart. Joe had nearly killed her when he broke their engagement because he had found another woman. And that was four years ago! It was time to try again, but maybe it should be done in steps. Maybe dating in an uncommitted manner and good sex were all that she needed right now. Maybe Amy is right.

But Mary couldn’t stop thinking of Sean. She touched her lips where he had kissed her. It had been a soft, sweet kiss, as gentle as the touch of butterfly wings, but with the promise of so much more. And she wasn’t totally unobservant; she had noticed his arousal when he hugged her goodbye. She found herself wondering why he only wanted to be friends, and whether it might be possible to change his mind.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Sean demanded of his wife. He picked up the clothes she had left lying on the floor and threw them at her. “Get dressed. And get out!”

Maggie’s long red hair glowed with the dim light from the candles she had set about the room. Her sultry green eyes raked over him with undisguised desire. Despite his anger, Sean found himself responding to her on the most basic of levels.

She gracefully rose from the bed, and with her best seductive walk, came over to him. He mentally said his prayers and crossed himself like a good Catholic boy and looked into his wife’s face. “Get out,” he said gruffly.

“Oh, but Sean, aren’t you happy to see me?” she asked and wrapped her arms around his neck. “We haven’t been together for, oh, how long now?”

“It’s been years, Maggie.”

“And how long since you’ve been with a woman?” She played with the hair at the nape of his neck and whispered strange words in his ear that he didn’t recognize. The sound of them slipped away along with his self-composure. What is she doing to me? Why can’t I stop myself?


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-47 show above.)