I'm in the midst of a blog tour to promote the release of The Wild Sight, and I've noticed that a preponderance of questions and comments center around my hero. Okay, I get it. He's a tall, dark and handsome hunk with an adorable Irish accent. What's not to love?
But to be fair, my heroine has a certain charming appeal too, and she's definitely a match for my hunky hero. Here's a brief excerpt from Chapter 1 when my heroine first comes on the scene:
P.S. And before you ask, yes, an Irishman (and most all Europeans) can pick out an American with one look at their clothes (the tennis shoes are a total giveaway).
Rylie Powell parked her rented car in front of a store with a chipped sign that proclaimed “Dry Goods and Hardware.”
She stared across the street at the window illuminated by two neon signs. The yellow one featured a stylized Irish harp with the word “Harp” written below. The dark blue one simply said “Guinness.” No other distinguishing signs hung on the door or window, but none was needed.
The manager of her B&B in Dungannon hadn’t been kidding when she said the village of Ballyneagh was small. The long wooden structures on either side of the badly paved road were divided into four businesses. The pub was one of the center stores across the street, situated between a nameless barbershop and Brigit’s Bakery. She had passed a scattering of a dozen stone cottages right before the line of shops, and through the growing twilight, she could see four more houses beyond the bakery.
Snagging her purse off the floor in front of the passenger’s seat, Rylie shoved the car key into one purse pocket and pulled her lipstick from another. Three weeks ago, she’d never heard of this place, never guessed that it existed. Two days ago, she’d flown across an entire continent and an ocean to get here. Then yesterday, she’d struggled to drive on the wrong side of the roadway over endless wet miles of country lanes in search of this little scrap of a burg and its no-name pub. All this effort so she could confront the man who had walked away from her and her mother almost twenty-five years ago.
The owner of the pub, her father, Dermot O’Shea.
She peered into the rearview mirror to apply her lipstick and gave an inward sigh. Why the hell was she worried about how she looked? She wasn’t here to seek his approval. More like, to rub his nose in the fact that by shirking his responsibilities as a father, he’d missed out. But that wasn’t really the reason either.
For as long as Rylie could remember, there had been a gap in her identity that went far beyond using her stepfather’s last name. In the six months since losing her mother to cancer, she had become consumed with unraveling the riddles of who she really was and where her roots lay. Riddles she grew convinced only her biological father could answer. Ghosts only he could put to rest.
At least the rain had dissipated to a drizzle. She flipped up the hood of her neon yellow windbreaker, the one she wore when jogging, and got out of the car. Dashing across the two-lane road, she pulled open the heavy door and stepped inside the pub. She folded back her hood and pulled her long hair free while her eyes adjusted to the dim interior.
Slowly, the large room came into focus. A long, gleaming wooden bar hugged the wall closest to the front door and a dartboard hung in the far corner. The opposite wall had four high-backed booths built into it, three of them currently occupied. A half dozen round tables were arranged in the center of the room, all empty at the moment. Unlike the bars Rylie had ventured into in California, this place had a surprisingly homey atmosphere in spite of a lingering odor of cigarette smoke.
Eyes now accustomed to the gloom, she consciously straightened into her “walking tall” posture, though at five-foot two-and-a-half inches tall was a relative term. She approached the bar. The two elderly men lounging against the polished wood, glasses of dark brew in hand, gave her openly appreciative looks, which she patently ignored.
The bartender bustled over, a gap-toothed grin on his ruddy face. “What’ll it be, darlin’?”
Rylie studied his middle-aged countenance for a moment before she answered, “A Coke.” Then, when he picked up a glass she added, “With ice.”
“To be sure,” the man said in the musical brogue that Rylie’s ears were still not quite attuned to. “’Tis how all you Yanks like it. Right enough?” He didn’t wait for her reply, but continued with a steady stream of talk that most everyone she had encountered in the past two days seemed adept at doing. “So what part of the States are you from, luv?”
Rylie could feel every eye in the place staring as the bartender plunked the fizzy beverage in front of her.
“And what would bring a pretty wan such as you to the middle of bloody nowhere such as this?”
The bartender chuckled at his own wit while Rylie sipped through the thin red straw and studied him. Short and paunchy, with thinning red hair faded to gray around his temples, he looked nothing like the few aged snapshots she had of her father.
“I’m from California,” she said, taking another sip of soda. “And I’m looking for someone.”
“I’d have guessed California.” The bartender spoke the name in five syllables, his blue eyes sparkling flirtatiously. “For you look just like a movie star, don’t ya know. And as for lookin’ for someone, you’ve come to the right man. I know everybody round these parts.”
“I’m not a movie star,” Rylie demurred. The skycap at the Belfast airport had said the same thing. She hadn’t cut him any slack either, and he was much younger and better looking than the bartender. “And I’m looking for the owner of this place.”
“Well, then, ‘tis indeed my lucky day!” The chunky man exclaimed. “For I’m the owner of this fine establishment.” He made a courtly little bow. “Gerry Partlan at your service.”
A panicky spurt of disappointment shot through Rylie’s veins. “I thought Dermot O’Shea owned this bar.”
Gerry Partlan’s smile dimmed just a little. “Yes, Dermot did own the place until a couple of months ago, though he’d taken sick back in June. When it came clear that he couldn’t work any more, his son and daughter and I took over as partners. We did a fair amount of sprucin’ the place up, and we’ve only just reopened at the start of this month.”
The glut of information made Rylie’s head spin, but when the man paused for breath, she jumped in with the first question she could form. “Dermot O’Shea’s son and daughter live here?”
Her interruption of his narrative brought a small crease between Gerry Partlan’s bushy red eyebrows. “Not exactly, no. His daughter, Doreen lives over in Armagh City, and Donovan claims to be here only long enough to settle Dermot’s affairs, though it’s taken him all the summer and now most of the fall. That’s himself sittin’ over in the corner just there.”
Aware that she continued to be the center of attention, Rylie shifted her gaze in the direction the bartender indicated. In the far corner at a table she hadn’t noticed before, a figure sat shrouded in shadows.
“Ho, Donovan, ya’ lucky stiff!” Gerry Partlan called out before Rylie could stop him. “This lovely lady wants a word with you.”
Taking his time, the man rose and walked toward them. Rylie’s first shock was at his height, probably a foot taller than she was. But the second and far bigger shock was his age. He was no boy, and appeared to be in his early thirties, several years older than her. She had expected to learn that she had more half-siblings, but she assumed they would be younger like her two teenaged half-brothers, Jamie and Justin Powell. That her father might have had children before he met her mother had never entered Rylie’s realm of possibilities.
Neither had the prospect that her half-brother would be so good-looking. Her eyes bulged and her mouth went cottony at the tall man’s approach. Black jeans and a dark blue sweater emphasized his lean physique. His closely trimmed dark hair and sculpted black brows framed sapphire blue eyes. He had a straight nose and defined cheekbones. A five o’clock shadow darkened his squarish jaw and the lower half of his face. While Rylie gaped, he extended a long-fingered hand with neatly clipped nails.
“I’m Donovan O’Shea.” His deep voice contained only the slightest hint of a brogue, the third shock in less than a minute. “Do we know each other?”
“I--You’re American?” Rylie gasped.
When Donovan O’Shea smiled down at her, twin lines ran from the middle of his cheeks to each side of his chin and made him look even more appealing.
“Yes, naturalized eight years ago, though I’ve lived there for fifteen.” Smile fading, he dropped his hand back to his side. “I’m sorry, but if we’ve met before, I’m afraid I don’t remember.”
“Oh, no!” Rylie felt a blush rising up her neck toward her face. “We haven’t met. I’m Rylie Powell.” Self-consciously, she stuck out her own hand.
“Charmed.” Donovan O’Shea smiled again, his teeth even and white.
He clasped Rylie’s hand in his much larger one and gave a single firm shake. Even that brief contact spiked Rylie’s awareness and intensified her blush. Not good. Seriously not good. Such things weren’t supposed to happen between siblings, but then brothers weren’t supposed to have such killer smiles.
“I--Can we talk, Mr. O’Shea?” Her voice squeaked in spite of her efforts to control it.
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