Authors: Toni Kelly
It’s one thing to resist an Irish dream, quite another to resist a dreamy Irishman.
After being traded for another woman by her fiance, Maggie decides she’s had it with men. Good thing she’s far away from him, in Ireland fulfilling her best friend’s request to be maid-of-honor. Wicklow and the Emerald Isle are more than she expects–green, lush, and exactly what she needs. What she doesn’t need is rescuing by some emerald-eyed charmer.
Newly divorced, Ethan Moore is ready to enjoy bachelorhood. Only one problem–the fiery-haired Maggie Christy. Unlike any woman he’s ever met, Maggie draws him close and turns him inside out. The attraction is unexpected and inconvenient, but nobody ever said true love was easy.
WARNING: Exceedingly charming Irishmen and sexually explicit scenes.
“What?” Maggie met Elsie’s gaze. “You’re leaving?”
“We’ll be right back. Ethan won’t bite, right?” She pinned Ethan with her most take-charge stare.
“Definitely not.” He raised his hands in surrender as his mouth curved upward. “I will behave like the utmost gentleman.”
“All right.” Turning, Elsie followed her fiance, leaving Maggie standing alone with Ethan.
gentlemen don’t kiss or ask for kisses, especially with unknown women,” she said.
Ethan frowned and adjusted his cuffs. “You’re right.”
With one look at his contrite expression, sadness and a hollowed out feeling filled her. How could one man affect her this easily? After Rick, how could she ask such a silly question? It appeared learning from mistakes was beyond her capabilities.
“I’m sorry if I offended you,” Ethan said.
“No worries. After what you did yesterday, I owe you.”
“How about a dance?” Hand held out, he nodded toward the floor below. “Friends. Completely platonic dancing.”
Absolutely nothing with this man could be completely platonic.
She quickly quashed the thought and slipped her hand in his.
By Toni Kelly
Copyright © 2012, Toni Kelly
Edited by Mary A. Murray
Book design by Lyrical Press, Inc.
Cover Art by Renee Rocco
First Lyrical Press, Inc. electronic publication: March, 2012
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Published in the United States of America by Lyrical Press, Incorporated
To Jorge, thank you for your patience, love and support. You are the most amazing hero I could ever ask for.
“Only smiles, Margaret Christy.” Elsie Rogers grabbed Maggie’s hands and squeezed tight, smiling with the cloud-floating happiness of a woman in love. “This is Ireland, land of rainbows, legends. It’s beautiful here and there are tons of gorgeous Irishmen all over the island. Last thing I want you thinking about is a jerk whose name I won’t even mention, as he doesn’t deserve such an honor.”
“I’m not,” she lied, pushing thoughts of Rick away. Elsie was right. Maggie took a deep breath of Irish country air and released it slowly. Ireland was like a dream. The Georgian styled Rose Hill House, Elsie’s soon-to-be permanent home, sat atop a hill amongst a crescent of trees. A blanket of ivy crawled midway up the house’s stone facade, reminding Maggie of the homes in the historical romances she loved to read. “It’s strange because I always thought of myself as a city girl.”
“Why is that strange?” Elsie asked as she turned to watch her fiance pull around the front of the house on the gravel drive.
“Well, we’re out in the Irish countryside and the nearest city is actually a tiny village.”
“Enniskerry is a very complete village. There are shops, restaurants, a barbershop, oh, and Dublin is only thirty or so minutes away from there. Dublin is quite a large city.”
“I know,” Maggie said. “You don’t need to convince me. What I’m trying to say very poorly is that I somehow feel at home here.” And despite the hollowness in her chest, she would be happy because her best friend married the love of her life–not because of some Irishman, or any man for that matter.
“I really am happy.” Maggie forced an upward curve to her lips despite the fact her cheeks seemed cemented in place. “For you though, not some Irish stranger. Now come on.” She tugged her friend’s hand, leading her toward the waiting car. “Before your wonderful, handsome fiance gets mad at me for keeping you.”
“Bryan isn’t like that. He’s great.” Her lips parted in a dreamy grin. “Are you sure you don’t want to come to Dublin Airport?”
“I’m positive. It’s important you and Bryan be there to greet your parents. Besides, where would I sit, on your dad’s lap? I’m a bit heavier now than at age five.”
“Hardly.” Elsie blinked her large hyacinth blue eyes. Those same eyes could be deceivingly innocent at times. Maggie knew better. “You sure you’re okay with this?”
“Yes. Ask me one more time, I just might strangle you. Please don’t worry. I’ve only been here a couple of hours. I wanted to tour the grounds. Before I know it, you’ll be back and we’ll be having dinner. Now go.” She gave her a gentle shove.
Elsie turned and hugged her, kissing her cheek lightly. “Thank you. I’m so glad you’re here.”
Maggie walked through an enchanting garden, along a wall of bushes which appeared to be part of a maze. She brushed her hand against tidy, trimmed hedges. The Kelley estate might as well have been described on an Austen novel’s pages. Different country perhaps, but stunning nonetheless.
A horse’s frantic whinny came from near the forest beyond the hedges. She strayed toward it, recalling Elsie had mentioned the stables’ location on the opposite side of the estate. Strange, the sound would come from the forest. Unlike Phoenix, no skinny, spiny-looking stumps grew here. No, these were rich, thick, knobby-looking trees. Those you read about in fairytales or legends.
As she rounded an edge of trees, a horse stood in the open, white, magnificent and somehow wedged between sharp boards of a broken fence. Maggie approached, wary. How had the horse gotten across the estate without being seen? The animal shoved its body to and fro, eyes rolling backward. “Whoa.” She glanced beneath the horse. A mare. “Whoa, girl.”
The mare tossed her head, lifting then slamming her front hooves on the ground.
“Careful, girl. You’re going to hurt yourself.” Maggie didn’t have much experience with horses but it didn’t take an expert equestrian to see the animal would end up stabbing itself unless it calmed down. She took several quick breaths, and lifted shaky hands toward the mare. A little bit closer. “All right, I’m moving these boards in front of you. Please don’t panic.” She spoke to herself as much as to the horse and climbed the fence.
Maggie found her opening and reached out, keeping her body back as she tugged on an upper plank. With several yanks, the stubborn piece of wood broke loose. “There you go, girl. One more.”
The mare stopped shoving and backed up as if to give some room.
“Atta girl. You’re a good lady, aren’t you?” Maggie cooed. The thundering within her chest slowed. One more piece. It sat lower, requiring a jump off the short fence. The horse didn’t mind. Bending low, Maggie moved closer and reached for the second plank. A shrill ring of her cellphone disturbed the morning stillness.
In response, the mare rose on two hind legs and came down, breaking the second plank away. Maggie avoided her hooves but not the board flying toward her. A burst of sharp pain radiated across her forehead. Her vision went black.
* * * *
“We’re done, Miriam. If you love me as you say you do, you should have thought first before jumping into bed with that bastard co-worker.” Ethan Moore held the phone away from his ear as his soon-to-be ex-wife ranted about how he never loved her enough. Perhaps what she said fell closer to truth than he’d admit. Didn’t change his mind or mood. He didn’t care to hear a recital of his life’s mistakes at this time. “Enough. Sign the blasted papers and be done with it. You never loved me, you loved my money. Take the estate in Georgia. Don’t call me again until you’ve signed everything.”
She started to protest, when a high-pitched scream echoed across the hills. Christ, what now?
“I’ve got to go.” He pushed the End Call button on his Blackberry. Hooves beat against the earth, and his most recently purchased mare cantered toward him. “Whoa.” She barely slowed as he stepped alongside her. Grabbing her mane as he’d done with many different horses since childhood, he swung himself onto her bare back and squeezed lightly with his thighs. She eased her pace.
“Aye, there’s a beauty.” He reached down, gave her flank a few gentle pats. “What has you running, Misty Eyes?” And where was his damn groom? Curious as to how she ended up at the edge of his property, he guided her forward, over the hill’s crest. Below, along fence separating Moore property from the Kelley estate, a body lay sprawled on verdant lawn. The scream he’d heard. “Shit.”
His gut seized and with one hip thrust, he pushed the mare into a gallop. He slowed near the body. A woman, by the shape. Holding the horse’s mane, he swung down from her back. “Stay here.”
Dressed in jeans and a simple white collared shirt, the woman lay immobile. A mass of burnt-red curls covered her face, locks he would have admired under other circumstances.
“Miss.” Careful not to move her, he lifted her hair, unveiling a quarter-sized cut on the upper right of her forehead. Blood streamed down her brow, contrasting sharply with her pale skin. With a couple fingers along her neck, he picked up a steady pulse beneath her skin. “Miss.”
She stirred. Twisting her head, she attempted to sit up, and made it halfway to rest on her elbows. A crease formed between her brows. “Ouch. Horse?”
Christ. Had Misty Eyes caused this? Now he would kill his groom. Slipping his hands beneath her, he lifted her up. Her weight felt slight, her curves subtle. “You’re going to be okay.”
“Horse,” she murmured.
“Don’t you worry about Misty Eyes. She’s fine.”
Dark skies above them rumbled, threatening a storm. He slid her onto the mare first before mounting behind her. Fat drops smacked his face and hands. Pulling her back, he settled her against his chest. Scents of vanilla and rain enveloped him, soothing yet fresh. Definitely not what he needed, but no gentleman worth his name would leave an injured woman abandoned. He’d only heard a couple words. Her accent wasn’t Irish. Most likely a tourist who’d strayed from the road.
Heavy-looking clouds rolled across the gray sky. Rain fell harder, seeping through the thin cotton of his shirt. At this rate, they’d find themselves sopping wet before reaching the cottage. Squeezing his thighs, he pushed Misty Eyes from a trot into a canter. Nothing need be complicated. He’d take the woman to his cottage, get her cleaned up then send her on her way.
Maggie woke with a dull pulsing at the front of her head. Ugh, no more violin practice for Rick. If he wanted to learn such a complexly noisy instrument, he could rehearse somewhere else and at someone else’s expense. Reaching up, she felt along her face and winced. A bandage covered the whole right side of her forehead. Why? What had happened? Her skull vibrated as if someone had taken a rubber hammer to it.