Monday, July 02, 2007

Irish Eyes Excerpt

Here's a taste of Irish Eyes, my newly released Whiskey Creek Press Torrid title. Enjoy!!

Dear Lily,

Nothing could have prepared me for this place. Honestly, to say it’s beautiful is a colossal understatement. This land takes beauty to a whole new level. Not only the sights and sounds, but the people, too. But more about the people later.

When I got off the plane I expected...I don’t know what I expected, exactly—but it wasn’t what I found. Even the airport was breathtaking, surrounded by miles of open land covered in a rich, deep green grass that looks more like real carpet than the stuff that Mom had in our family room at home.

And you know how we always thought that Vermont was hilly? Mountainous, even? Well, we were clueless. This place is so endlessly rolling that I fear even a ship’s first mate could find himself seasick. I hope I get used to walking on the lumps and bumps of this new place. If not, I’ll be spraining my ankles every day. Let’s hope the sidewalks are flat, at least. Hell, I hope they have sidewalks—I haven’t seen any yet.

Riding from the airport to my temporary new home was an adventure. Irish taxi drivers are like taxi drivers the world over; they talk nonstop and spend more time pointing out the “sights” than they do paying attention to the road ahead of them. And what a road it was! Narrow and unlined except for the ruts that look like they were made by elephants, the “highway” between Dublin and here isn’t one I’ll look forward to riding again. I kid you not—my hip is bruised from being bashed against the inside of the decrepit little taxi. No exaggeration, Lily. It’s the truth.

But I did get to see some things that you just don’t see at home.

The driver—Shamus was his name, by the way—was careful to show me places to eat (Mulligan’s Pub being at the top of his list) and the chemist’s shop (they don’t call it a ‘drugstore’ over here) for finding my ‘female fixings.’ I can hear you laughing, but I promise you—that’s exactly what he said. Can you imagine? A modern man— in his thirties, probably—says ‘female fixings’? Never in New York, huh? And he did it all after he asked me out to dinner—did I mention that yet? Well, more on that little tidbit later, too.

When I inquired about the castle, the ruddy-faced, red-haired Romeo clammed right up. I pushed him a bit, claiming that I wanted to learn about all the old castles in County Meath, and asked him to tell me what he knew about the place. I wasn’t above turning on the fluttering-eyelash, hair-tossing routine, either. Sadly, neither my pointed questions nor womanly wiles had a positive effect on the now silent-as-the-tomb driver.

Muttering something beneath his breath, he made a point of showing me St. Brigid’s Church, an imposing white brick building right in the center of town. Under other circumstances, I would have loved to learn more about the building, since it’s undoubtedly an important historical monument. There’s even a hilly little graveyard with moss-covered slabs of granite behind the church. Shamus made it clear, though, that not only was he not interested in talking about the Castle, he wasn’t at all as interested in me as he’d first been. So I thought it prudent to keep my mouth shut about the church—no comments on that one.When we reached the rental cottage, a thatched fairy-tale fantasy like the ones we drew with our crayons as children, Shamus unloaded my baggage from the boot (it’s not a trunk here, no matter how much it looks like the one on my Audi). I swear I could hear him say something about banshees and ghouls as he drove away.

Oh, and no second inquiry about going out to dinner with him before he left, either. Which was really too bad, since he was temptingly handsome and, as we both know, I’m currently single. Again.

Ugh, let’s not go there.

Did you think Ireland was going to be like this? I admit that I didn’t. And I haven’t even scratched the surface of my explorations—I wonder what I’ll find when I get down to looking around. I’ll keep you posted as things here move forward.

For now, I’m off in search of a hot meal. I didn’t see anything that even comes close to resembling a Wendy’s or a Pizza Hut. I hope the food here is easier to understand than the people are!

I’m glad I came here, Lily. It’s going to be good to get some distance from the mess back at home. Maybe I can begin to figure out what I’m going to do next. After all that’s happened, I’d like to crawl into a hole and bury myself, but I know I can’t do that. I know. I know...I can hear you pressing the buttons, dialing Dr. Monroe as you read this. But don’t. You don’t need to worry about me. I’m going to be fine. I promise.

Now, I’m really going to find some food. I’ll write again soon.

Love, Maddy

P.S. As soon as I get the Internet thingy hooked up to my laptop I’ll send e-mails, too. Don’t worry, though. The snail mail will keep coming—I know how you love to examine the strange stamps, tear open the envelopes and hold the pages in your hands. I do, too. It must be one of those silly family things, don’t you think? Maybe all those letters we got at camp from Granny when we were kids—you know the ones. Anyhow, the e-mails will soon be on the way, too. Just thought I’d let you know.
* * * *
She heard a voice as she licked the envelope. It was as deep and smooth as honey on a hot biscuit and came from the other side of the old-fashioned screen door.

“We’ve been wondering when you’d get here.”

The tall, tanned stranger had eyes that sparkled like two fires behind teal sea glass. It was difficult to tear her own eyes away from his, but she knew she’d have to unless she wanted to look like the village idiot. With the sound of his voice her own expansive vocabulary seemed to have left her head entirely.

Hell’s bells! If all the men in this place look like this one, I’m never going to leave. I didn’t know real men like this existed—outside of my fantasies, anyway.

Maddy cleared her throat but that didn’t help—she still was at a loss for words. The man seemed amused by her muteness. When he grinned, she saw that his teeth were as white as the whites of his blue eyes and nearly as hypnotizing.

“My mother sent me over here to see if you need anything,” he said, holding out a tea towel-wrapped bundle. “She said to give you this. It’s one of her famous sourdough breads—she wins ribbons at the county fair for these, she does.”

Mutely, Maddy pulled the door open. He stepped inside and she saw that his shoulders were broader, his legs longer and his eyes were even more striking up close. Taking the bundle from him, she smiled and walked through the small living area and into the connected kitchen. He followed her through the house as if he had been inside it many times before, and watched as she set the bread on the worn pine table. Crossing his arms, he settled himself against the white-tiled countertop.

Her eyes fell, taking in his relaxed pose. His denim shirt tightened across his shoulders and biceps enticingly. Her fingers twitched as she fought the urge to run her hand over the solid muscle.

She realized he was waiting for her to speak.

“I...I’m Madeline Sinclair. Maddy, really. At least that’s what everyone calls me. And you are?” She was relieved to find that her voice hadn’t left her entirely. It was a bit wobbly, but at least it was intact.

He stretched out his large, calloused hand. She placed her small, delicate one inside of it and they shook briefly. Surprisingly, she felt a measure of sadness when he pulled his hand away and recrossed his arms.

“Brian O’Leary at your service. Pleased to meet you, Maddy. As I said, we’ve all been wondering when you would find your way to the cottage. Especially Mum.” He lowered his voice to a near whisper and leaned closer to her. She leaned in, too, as if it were perfectly natural to be whispering in kitchens with rugged foreigners. “She’s a bit...well I wouldn’t say nosey exactly—not if I wanted to keep my head from meeting one of her tea towels, that is. Curious might be a better word to describe me mum. She’s very curious about you, so she sent me to fetch back some information. And deliver the bread, too—of course.”

Straightening, Maddy adjusted her sweater so it lay flat against the waistband of her jeans. She wished she’d had time to change into something less rumpled than her traveling clothes.

“Please thank her for me, won’t you? The bread smells heavenly, especially after the long day I’ve had. The food on the plane was—well, you know how plane food is, I’m sure. I was just going out to hunt down something to eat.” It seemed now that she’d found her voice, she was as talkative as an overindulged parrot.

As if on cue, her stomach rumbled.

Shit, now I really look like an idiot. A hungry, babbling idiot in wrinkled clothes. Not the type of impression one hopes to make, is it?

Brian grinned. “Let’s get you fed, then. I know a place that’ll fix you up just right.” He led the way back toward the front door and she followed him through the cottage. “We’ll get to know one another better over dinner, won’t we?”

I wouldn’t mind getting to know you a whole lot better, believe me. Maybe my luck with men has finally changed. Or at the very least, maybe I’ll get a few weeks of fun on this trip. Who knows?

When they reached the front door, she scooped up Lily’s letter and the ancient-looking silver key that the realtor had left for her in the cottage’s metal mailbox. Both items had been sitting on the oak table beside the door. Brian nodded at the key.

“Won’t need that key. You could have left it in the postbox if you’d wanted to.” He winked as he took it from her and placed it on the table before he reached for the old-fashioned wrought-iron door handle. Ushering her out onto the stoop, he said, “Won’t be anyone in Blackmuir who’ll be walking in without an invite. And those that would do that—well, lassie, they can’t be kept out with locks and keys, can they?”

Irish Eyes can be purchased here.


Lisa Andel said...

Too cool Rusty.
PS, I love your profile!
I'd love to live in a cottage, but I'm not sure about the beach. There's those pesky hurricanes I see on TV that I'm not sure I'd be too fond of. ;)