♦ ISBN eBook: 978-1-4524-5560-0
Irish Hearts series, Book 1
Length: Novella ♦ Release Date: May 13, 2010
Contemporary Romance, Erotic
Flynn Donovan’s only real home is on a stage, strumming her guitar in underground bars and lounges. She’s close to her big break when she’s summoned to Ireland and faced with a life-altering choice—and a six-foot, dimpled distraction in the form of local pub owner Patrick Keane.
Patrick has some musical talent of his own—and can play her body like an instrument. Flynn’s tempted to write off their encounter as a fling and fly back to the States. Should she give up the real-life fairy tale for her lifelong dream?
Sometimes, she discovers, the most difficult choices are the ones made while the music plays on.
Read an Excerpt
Warning: This excerpt may contain material inappropriate for minors and is intended for readers over 18 years of age.
White clouds swirled, calmed, and settled in a flowing stream to form a thin layer at the bottom of the pint glass. Flynn inhaled the cold, dark brew, and the liquid slid down her throat a little too easily. This was exactly how Irish beer should be: smooth and bittersweet.
Good, reliable Guinness, the perfect indulgence after the kind of surreal day she’d had. She licked her lips, satisfied with the icy rush that filled her system. Ahhh! She placed the nearly drained glass on the battered countertop that belonged to the cozy watering hole called Devil’s Heart.
The tiny pub was situated smack in the center of town, and within the parameters of County Down in Northern Ireland. This area was also known as the Brontë Homeland, the lush countryside between Banbridge and Rathfriland, home to many generations of the Brontë clan, including famed novelists Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.
A yawn escaped her lips and she knew the jet lag and weariness were catching up with her. She should be sleeping in but didn’t regret stealing away for a few hours to get her head back on straight. Besides, she needed time to think over the proposition. Flynn rocked back in her barstool, carefully weighing the pros and cons in her mind. After all, her choice would change her entire existence with just a single answer.
She blew out a frustrated breath, glancing around the pub for a distraction. She soaked in the vintage décor of the cramped surroundings and the reality seemed to calm her nerves. Nothing beat the familiar sights and smells of an intimate pub with the stench of stale alcohol mingled with days-old cigarette smoke still lingering in the air. Her eyes were drawn to the tiny platform that belonged to open mic night and a rush of adrenaline made her itch to perform.
There was no mistake. Flynn felt right at home.
The usual sounds of clinking glass and alcohol bottles being restocked by the bartender were music to her ears. She swiveled in her seat and noticed the brick walls plastered with bumper stickers, dated film and band posters, and various Irish sports team paraphernalia. Along with the eclectic furnishings, the soft crimson lights filtered through the room to give it a retro, hip vibe. The walls were distinctive with their mixed textures of brick and concrete to form a cohesive display of artistic masculinity. Not what she had expected from this place, especially from the outside.
Flynn had spent many years in and out of pubs like these, from Los Angeles to New York, and always found them to be comforting. This was her domain and where she could be herself without feeling like an outcast.
“This one’s on me,” the bartender’s rich brogue sliced through her thoughts. He set a fresh, overflowing pint in front of her.
She glanced up to meet the face that belonged to the deep baritone voice. Flynn hadn’t anticipated seeing the devil himself eying her with approval. Where did he come from? What happened to Colin the bartender?
When she didn’t respond, he gave her a lopsided smile that revealed a charming dimple, and softened his rugged features.
Oh. My. God.
He embodied everything American women discussed and believed an Irishman should be: Lethal at first sight.
What really captured her attention were his unruly locks of dark hair, the color dubh in Gaelic, so deep a black that it enhanced the colors of his emerald eyes. He looked in need of a haircut but it didn’t detract from his handsomeness. The way he carried himself exuded self-confidence and a quiet strength. Somehow she believed he’d be able to handle himself if he was caught in a brawl.
Even dressed in a black vintage The Pogues t-shirt and faded blue jeans, there was no mistaking the kind of impact he’d have on the opposite sex.
God, he was tall when he straightened up.
This beautiful man reminded her of a panther, so intense yet graceful, stealthy, yet hiding a wicked edge. The kind of wickedness she imagined he could do behind closed doors. The same wickedness glittered within the green depths as he looked at her like she was a morsel he wanted a bite of.
“Looks like you’ll be needin’ this in a bad sort. Rough day?” He spoke with such a gentle, persuading tone, as if to reassure her that anything out of her lips to his ears would be held in the strictest confidence.
She swallowed hard, trying to allow his words to penetrate the sudden thick haze that blocked her brain. How could she focus on the question when he looked like…well, like that! Tall, dark, and hard in all the right places.
Her body flushed at the naughty sexual scenarios running through her head. Embarrassed by her thoughts, she lowered her eyes, only to catch a glimpse of an intricate Celtic tattoo that snaked down from his bicep, peeking out beneath the edge of his t-shirt and continuing downward like a sleeve. She could feel her nipples strain against her t-shirt, her panties growing moist with excitement beneath her jeans.
Body ink had always been her kryptonite and his gorgeous tattoo brought a delicious shiver through her.
She cocked her head. “Excuse me?” She forced herself to shake off the sudden lightheadedness. She didn’t know if the intoxicating effects were caused by the beer or amplified by the six-foot Irishman.
He leaned his back against the liquor bar counter and crossed his arms. “Don’t mean to meddle, but what’s a bonnie American lass drinking all by her wee self without any companions to protect her?”
“Yes, you’re meddling. And how do you know I’m American?” She gave him a ‘mind your damn business’ frown and grabbed her glass, polishing it off for good measure.
“Touché. However, your accent just gave you away.” He bit back a smile as he spoke, “Me name’s Patrick. Patrick Keane, and you?”
“Flynn Donovan.” She returned the smile, starting to warm up to him, even though her body already had.
His lush mouth curved into an amused smile. “Ah, Flynn Donovan. A true Irish lass who could’ve easily hailed from these parts.”
The way he spoke her name sent chills down her spine.
He shook his head. “Pity.”
She raised a brow in interest at his teasing tone. “Why ‘pity’?” She imitated his brogue.
His grin deepened. “Ireland could use a few lovelies like yourself here. Have you seen some of the native women in Co Down?” He shivered.
A laugh escaped her and Flynn had to admit the man could probably charm the panties off any woman. “No, I just got here late last night. I’m still trying to adjust to the time zone. Among other things…” She let the sentence hang, not wanting to discuss the matter with a stranger.
Patrick grabbed a nearby towel to wipe down the counter in front of her. “Sounds a bit serious.”
“Nothing I can’t handle,” she answered firmly, hoping he would drop the subject. Flynn picked up the moisture-glistened glass of Guinness and took a healthy swallow. “So, when does this place fill up?”
Patrick began straightening the rows of glasses on the bar rack. “In a wee bit. I suppose around lunchtime they’ll be strolling in for a few. Can’t bloody throw them out after that point, but I’ll be fine with taking their Euros.”
She relaxed and leaned an elbow on the counter, propping her chin up. “I’m disappointed. I thought the Irish started drinking as soon as they opened their eyes in the morning.”
She watched in fascination as he worked. It wasn’t hard to figure out he had many years experience doing it. On top of that, Patrick was easy to talk to. He was meticulous and organized as he handled his duties.
Hell, he’d look sexy no matter what he was doing!
Patrick wiped his hands on a clean towel before hanging it on a rack below. “They normally do. Perhaps you’ve just got a jump on them.” His eyes sparkled as he nodded his head toward her leather-worn guitar case. He whistled, “That’s a mighty big cosmetic case.”
She looked over at her prized accessory and grinned. “I don’t have much use for cosmetics. Truth is, I’m a musician.”
Patrick scratched his scruff of a beard. “That’s a new one,” he mocked, “I’ve had poets, mimes, and Eco-activists in this week but no musicians. It must be me lucky day.”
His personality was infectious and Flynn slid off the stool and unsnapped the guitar case. She pulled out her baby, instinctively handling it with gentleness.
She swung the guitar strap around her head. “Well, let’s get this party started.”
“I can see you’re a wild one. Should’ve listened to Colin and stocked the back meself. I’ll have to have a word with him later.”
Flynn gave him an exaggerated wink, “Wild one? You haven’t seen anything yet.”
Patrick’s rich laughter filled the room as she walked over to the front door and yanked it open.
“What in God’s name are you doing, Flynn?”
She glanced over her shoulder at him. “If you’re afraid I’m running out on the tab, I’m not. But…I figured I’d just pay off the bill in other ways.” She grabbed a nearby chair and propped the door open.
Flynn made her way over to the tiny stage and sat down on the ragged stool near the microphone, positioning herself comfortably as if she was about to address a roomful of guests.
“Fine, have it your way.” Patrick walked out from behind the bar counter and grabbed an oversized amp at the edge of the stage. He hauled the equipment over to the open door, his muscles flexing as he carried the sturdy box. He dropped it down onto the wooden chair.
Flynn leaned casually into the mic and teased, “That’s my kind of guy. Roll with the punches.”
He winked and pointed at her. “But you’re not getting out of paying the tab.”
“Wait and decide after I play,” she persuaded as she strummed a few chords of a song, and then launched fully into U2’s Beautiful Day.
While she sang, she watched his face light up with surprise, then pleasure. She assumed he hadn’t expected a big, smoky voice coming from a girl like her. Hadn’t everyone who’d heard her compared her to Pink or Kelly Clarkson with a Colbie Callait visage? Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing, but she wanted to be distinctly her own woman…with her own voice. She wasn’t doing too badly. Her indie folk sound and original songs were what kept her tour schedule filled these days.
Flynn may have the surfer, girl-next-door appeal, but she was far from it. She wasn’t supermodel stunning but she was thankful for her flawless skin, the sun-streaked hair, high cheekbones and ocean blue eyes she inherited from her mother. Being part Irish, she was thankful she didn’t possess the fiery red locks or freckles like everyone on her mother’s side. It was surely a blessing in disguise because even without makeup, she had that glowing California, Valley Girl appearance people warmed to.
Her clean looks helped her with a lot of breaks but didn’t prevent her from using her car as a home. She spent the past eight years pursuing her singing career, traveling cross-country to make ends-meet singing at any filthy, nondescript lounge and bar that would book her. This independence and solo adventure taught her a thing or two about being tough, about never trusting anyone. She had discovered that lesson when she was nearly raped by a supposed “producer.” But even with the highs and lows of her journey, she never took anything for granted. She remained headstrong and grounded.
Flynn remembered the days when she didn’t make enough to eat, starving on most, but thankfully she ran in circles where musicians with similar aspirations were kind enough to share what little they had. This kindness was an unwritten pact between artists. These musicians became her real family. Not the one she was born into where her father drank and gambled away his wages just for kicks. And when he was feeling really good, he’d lock her out of the house where she’d end up sleeping on the front porch. Rain or snow.
No, she didn’t miss those days and she wasn’t about to wind up like her mother. Dropping her passions for a man who never respected or appreciated her, only accepting what was handed to her—that being the other end of his fist—and wasting away into an early grave.
I’ll never let the past get the best of me.
Gritty reality had made her appreciate everything she earned, including the privilege of performing for those who saw her as a true artist. Her voice was her blessing and her calling was being able to share her message to the world through the songs she wrote. Perhaps that was why she couldn’t accept what she had learned this morning while she sat with the team of barristers.
Could she give up everything she had for a dream? Sell her soul to the highest bidder, regardless of the cost?
Her emotions poured out from her soul as she sang her original ballad:
The past won’t hurt me, these words ring true.
No more sorrows when I’m living every day anew.
And one day, when I least expect,
the road I’ve traveled may lead me right to you.
She made the mistake of looking over and catching Patrick’s gaze. His eyes flashed a clear emerald green, and she could have sworn he looked as if he’d seen a ghost. Just as quickly, he dropped his gaze and broke the spell.
Flynn didn’t want to dwell too much on the brief exchange. She could have misinterpreted his look due to the emotional performance. The moment fluttered by as a stream of conversation caught her attention and she glanced toward the open door. She noticed a small crowd shuffling in, claiming their seats at the bar counter, and some carried their beers to nearby tables to listen.
Always the entertainer, she smoothly transitioned into the latest rendition of a top twenty tune to appease the patrons. Cheers, claps, and whistles filled the small space and both Patrick and Colin were hustling behind the bar to fill orders.
Once again, she was lost to the music as reality disappeared around her.