Read The irish lover Online

Authors: Lila Dubois

The irish lover (page 3)

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It was strange to have this man she’d just mettouching her, hugging her, and yet it was far from the first hugfrom a stranger she’d experienced that night. Stranger still wasthe fact that this didn’t really feel all that strange.

They stood together, Michael warm and strong ather side, as the music flowed around them.

****

Michael reminded himself that he was a goodman. Not the kind of man who would seduce a woman who’d just beenthrough what must have been a trying night. Maybe it had been toolong since he’d been with someone—and it had been a long time—butMichael couldn’t stop himself from fantasizing about pulling Maryinto his arms and kissing her. Maybe it was the pints, maybe it wasthe music or the air of melancholy that had fallen over the placeonce they realized who she was, but Michael found himself longingfor things he normally tried not to think about.

Caera Cassidy, the events manager who handledFinn’s Stable, sang three songs with her new American boyfriend,who was an accomplished musician and performer. The rumor was thatshe was taking a career break to go on tour with him in America.When the couple was done and the last notes faded to silence Maryleaned into his shoulder, soft and warm. Her hair smelled likeshampoo, a clean scent that shouldn’t have affected him the way itdid.

As she tucked herself against his side, Michaelgritted his teeth. Every fiber of his being wanted to take Maryback to her room, strip her clothes from her and make love to heruntil the sun rose. He wanted to touch her, taste her and figureout what it was about her that drew him to her. He wanted to, buthe wouldn’t.

Calling himself a fool he eased her away fromhim. “You’ve had quite the night, haven’t you, prettyMary?”

She nodded, eyes watery once more.

“Can I walk you to your room?”

Her gaze searched his face. “If you hadn’t mademe come in here I might never have met all these people and heardthe stories about my parents.”

“Then I’m glad I did. Come on, I’ll make sureyou get there.”

Michael guided her out of the pub. They tookthe elevator rather than the stairs and he walked her down the hallto her door. She fished the key from her pocket then froze, lookingat something just over his shoulder. Michael turned and saw a smallflash of light, as if someone were moving a mirror insunlight.

“I thought I…” Mary shook her head. “I thinkI’m well and truly overwhelmed, to the point I’m seeingthings.”

Michael scanned the hall, examining the cornersand what shadows there were in the well-lit, carpeted hallway. WhenMary had her door opened, he faced her.

“It was nice to meet you.” The words seemedinadequate, but he didn’t know what else to say.

“Thank you, for everything. Hearing about themmeans more than you’ll ever know. Everyone has been so kind andwelcoming.”

“Ireland is your home.”

She smiled, leaning her head against thedoorframe. “Yes, it is. I hadn’t expected to feel a connection withthis place.”

“Mary?”

“Yes?” She tipped her head, looking at himthrough her lashes. Her lips were pink and soft, parted just abit.

Michael cursed mentally, trying to think ofanything but how much he wanted to kiss her. “Would you like tohave tea tomorrow, with my mother?”

“Your mother?”

“I think she knew your parents, and if shedidn’t know them personally she’d be able to help you look atrecords.”

“Oh, thank you. I would like that.”

“Would tomorrow, or later today as it seems,around two o’clock work?”

“Yes. Can you write down theaddress?”

“I’ll come and collect you just beforetwo.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Michael didn’t kiss her, buthe touched her cheek with one finger. “Goodnight, Mary.”

“Goodnight, Michael.”

****

The next day at precisely two o’clock Mary wasin the hotel foyer. As she waited, she smoothed her palms againsther hips, checking to make sure that the gray wool skirt she worewith black tights, boots and a blue sweater was inplace.

“Can I help you with something?”

The redheaded woman she remembered from lastnight approached Mary. Today her nametag was pinned to a prettygreen jacket that made her hair look even redder.

“Uh, no, I’m fine. I’m waiting forsomeone.”

“You’re Mary Callahan, aren’t you?”

“Yes.” Mary shook the redhead’s offeredhand.

“I’m Sorcha, guest relations manager. Welcometo Glenncailty Castle, and welcome home.”

At her words tears formed in Mary’s eyes, andshe had to look away, blinking. Before coming to Glenncailty shewould never have considered Ireland home. Home was Chicago. Afterlast night, “home” seemed like a much more complicated term thanshe’d imagined it to be. It didn’t really make sense—she’d leftwhen she was two—but Glenncailty was starting to feel likehome.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make youupset.”

“I’m not.” Mary waved her hand, laughing alittle. “I must be tired, or jet lagged, because this is happeninga lot. Are you from around here?”

“Not from Glenncailty, no. Who are you waitingfor?”

“Michael Baker. I met him last night and hesaid his mother knew my parents.”

“I don’t know Michael well since he lives inDublin, but Mrs. Baker is a lovely woman.”

The massive front door opened. The windwhistled as it pushed though the opening. Michael entered, shuttingthe door. He wore corduroy pants and a collared shirt with a fleecesweater or jumper over the top. His hair—she’d been right, indaylight it was more gold than brown—was rumpled and tossed by thewind.

“Michael, I hear you’re taking one of my guestsout to tea.” Sorcha smiled, then winked at Mary. “I’ll expect herback at a decent hour.”

“Ah, Sorcha, you wound me thinking I’d stepeven one toe out of line with a lady like Mary.”

Mary felt herself blush. She knew they werejust teasing by pretending this was a date, but it hit a little tooclose to home. Michael was one of those guys who was so nice everywoman around him had a crush on him, and hoped he liked her inreturn. Mary had made the mistake of thinking kindness wassomething more in the past, and so she was being careful not tomisread Michael. She was going to chat with his mother, nothingmore, and it didn’t mean anything.

Last night had been wonderful, but hearingstories about her parents and how they fell in love also reinforcedhow alone she was. Her life back home wasn’t exactly going to plan,but it was easy to forget that when she could fill her days andnights with friends and activities. Since landing in Ireland shewas more aware than ever that she was missing something in herlife—the kind of love and companionship that her grandparents, andapparently her parents, had. That made it hard not to fantasizeabout a date with Michael, a future with a man like Michael soshe’d never be alone again.

“I’ll hold you to that. Have a lovelyafternoon, and Michael, tell your mother I have everything arrangedfor her St. Vincent de Paul meeting next week.”

“I will. Mary?” Michael held out hisarm.

With her arm threaded through his they madetheir way out to his car—a black Jaguar. “Nice ride.”

Michael winced. “Bought in better times—I wishI’d been a bit more practical.”

He held open her door and Mary slid in. “Whatdo you do?” she asked as he got in to the driver’s seat.

“I was a mortgage broker. In the height of theCeltic Tiger that meant I was living very well indeed.”

“Hence the car.”

He nodded. “Then, when things started to go badI was offered a golden handshake—a nice financial package if I leftearly. Only a few months later my coworkers were being laid offwithout any severance pay. I was lucky.”

“I heard the recession hit very hardhere.”

“Very hard, indeed. Ireland has been throughhard times before, and they’ve come again.”

“So what do you do now? I heard you live inDublin.”

“Asking about me were you?” Michael’s eyes—apretty pale green—sparkled as he smiled at her.

“No, I mean, I didn’t ask. Sorcha just toldme.”

“I’m only teasing you, pretty Mary.” They weredriving along the road she’d come in on—the one that curved alongthe walls of the glen. Now he turned off, descending once more intothe valley. “I work for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The truth ofit is that I was part of the problem, dealing in mortgages thatwere rotten. We though that we could do no wrong, that the goodtimes would never end. So now I help people understand their rightsand options.”

“That’s noble of you.”

“Hardly. It’s the least a body can do to helpclean up the mess.” Michael was quiet for a moment, and Mary couldsee the effort he was making to come out the dark mood her questionhad put him in. “Please God, we’ll see an end to these hard timessoon.”

Not sure what to say, Mary looked out thewindow as they made their way down a winding road flanked byfields. Soon the fields gave way to the first buildings.

“Is this Cailtytown?”

“It is. I’ll give you a bit of a tour before westop.”

The streets were narrow, not made for cars, andmore than once they had to pull to the side, wheels on thefootpath, to allow another car to pass.

“This here is the town center.”

There was a small square, with grass sectionedoff by paths, flowers in huge stone urns, and a pedestal in thecenter with a life-size statue of man mounted on it.

“Who is the statue of?” Mary ducked to look outthe window at the figure.

“No one knows for sure, as the original plaqueis long gone. It’s either the first lord of Glenncailty, or the manwho killed him.”

“Killed him?”

“Yes.”

“There must be a story there.”

“There’s a story to everything in this part ofthe world. Here, we’ll take a bit of a walk so you can seethings.”

Michael parallel parked in one of the fewparking spaces around the square. When Mary got out, he met her andoffered his arm. The shops around the square were small, but eachone was well kept with brightly painted window trim and wood signsproclaiming what they were hanging from the front of the two- andthree-story stone buildings.

“The Lord of Glenncailty was an Englishman,given the title and our lands in order to subjugate the Irish. Manylords never set foot in Ireland, instead sending others to collecttaxes and sit as judge and jury, but the Lord of Glenncailty cameand built the manor house that you’re staying in.”

“The castle?”

“It’s no proper castle—you’d need to go to Trimfor that—but it was certainly built for defense.”

“Defense against who?”

“Us.” Michael grinned. “The people ofGlenncailty are a stubborn lot, and we’re not fond of the English,which brings me to our story.” He motioned to the statue. “It’ssaid that the first Lord of Glenncailty was a cruel man. He usedhis power and position to rape the people and the land.” Michael’seyes were pinched at the corners, his expressive face telling thestory as much as the words. “It’s said that one of the men in thevillage went to the castle, as it was called even then, and gavethe lord a gift. The gift was a wolfhound pup, one of the man’s ownprize-winning dogs. The man’s friends were angry with him, thinkinghe’d betrayed them by giving the Englishman such a gift. The lordgrew bolder after the gift of the dog, and everyone lived in fearof him.”

Mary found that she was hanging on each word,and when Michael paused she squeezed his arm. “Whathappened?”

“One night many years later the man went to thecastle. He listened to the cries of pain coming from the servinggirl the Englishman was abusing. He whistled and the dog came tothe window. The dog was vicious and he growled at the man outside.The Englishman came to the window, bold and secure in his power.The Irishman whistled to the dog, a tune he’d taught him as a pup.The wolfhound turned on the lord and tore him limb fromlimb.”

“So the dog was a plant, a furryassassin.”

“Furry assassin? I quite like that.” Michaelchuckled. “Yes, the dog was sent to the castle to rid the glen ofthe hated lord.”

“And no one knows who the statueis?”

“No, though everyone has theirpreference.”

They walked along in silence for a moment andMary realized she was snuggled against his side, almost leaning onhim as they walked. She straightened, putting distance betweenthem. They passed a fish and chip take-away shop, a bakery and asewing store with a window full of brightly colored yarn. Next tothat was a solicitor’s office—the solicitor’s name was written onthe window in sedate gold lettering, but the frame of the windowwas beautifully carved wood, polished to a high gleam. In eachcorner was a fanciful carved creature—griffon, dragon, mermaid andgargoyle. Above the window was an old wooden sign: “Callahan andSon Fine Wood Furniture.”

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