The moment Dubheasa O’Malley set foot on the pavement, the wind picked up, the fine hairs at the base of her neck stood at attention, and a chill swept the length of her spine. She stumbled to a halt and cursed her luck when the dark outline of a person separated from the shadowed corner outside her family’s pub.
Only one man triggered that response in her—Ronan Fucking O’Connor. Her nemesis. Her family’s worst enemy turned champion and the bastard who’d destroyed her career with a few treacherous words from his delectable lips.
She stopped short.
Delectable? Really, Dubheasa?
There was nothing in any way delectable about that mutton-headed man-child. Not the way his silver cat eyes missed nothing when they raked the length of her body, nor the heat they caused, as if it were his large, capable hands caressing her instead of a single, searing glance. Not the thick, wavy hair that refused to be tamed, much like the man himself. Certainly not that well-muscled body without a single extra ounce of fat that moved with a jungle cat’s grace and precision. The one that made her wonder what other deliberate movements he would make should he get her naked and alone.
Goddess, that night lived in infamy, if only inside her mind. Only her twin, Eoin, knew the truth of her indiscretion.
As she approached, Ronan’s arms dropped to his sides and an anticipatory gleam entered his eyes. “Dove.”
His lips twitched. As did her stomach at the sight of his sexy smirk.
Stupid bloody stomach!
“Nice language ya learned in America, my darlin’ Dove.”
“I like the American tongue, O’Connor.” She said his name with all the derision she could muster. They were, after all, enemies of a sort. Or, at least they had been, before he decided to save her family. And didn’t she hate that she should feel kinder toward him now? “Yanks have the perfect words for every occasion. Backstabber. Double-dealer. Turncoat.”
This time, he didn’t even try to hide his grin, damn him. “It could be argued, since our families have been bitter enemies for hundreds of years, I was simply carrying on tradition, at the time.”
Hurt made her heart spasm. He’d been deliberate in his actions and cost her a job she enjoyed in a city she loved.
“Right.” Dubheasa tried to go around him, only to have him step in her path. “Move out of my way, Ronan.”
“Can’t do that. We need to talk.”
“And yet, I have absolutely nothing to say to you.”
He invaded her space, ducking his head to put his lips next to her ear. “Nothing? I remember a time when you had plenty to say. How ya whispered—oomph!”
“Whisper that, ya feckin’ wanker!” She told herself she wasn’t one bit sorry to see him pale, clutch his man parts, and struggle to breathe. Sure, and didn’t she warn him the last time that her knee would become closely acquainted with his bollocks if he ever looked her way again?
At the entrance of the pub, she glanced back. Ronan had straightened—somewhat—but he still remained slightly bent over as if struggling against great pain. She wouldn’t feel remorse. Not a drop. Liars got what they deserved.
“I don’t care for anything you have to say. Stay away from me, O’Connor, or it’ll go worse for you next time.” Dubheasa whipped open the door and almost slammed into another man. Her hands came up for balance, and she braced herself against his hard chest. His deliciously hard chest.
With the exception of Ronan, he was taller than most men of her acquaintance, perhaps six-two or -three, with shoulders as wide as an American football linebacker. Her eyes traveled the length of his body, admiring the way his form-hugging Henley outlined the muscles underneath. Her breath caught in her throat, and her ovaries sighed at the possibility of this man in her bed.
“Oh, pardon me.”
“The fault is all mine,” he assured her in a deep, sexy-as-hell voice that would warm her on Ireland’s coldest evening. His accent labeled him as American, but perhaps one who traveled a lot. He’d be hard to pin down to one area by his voice alone. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“’S all right.” Her words came out garbled, as if she was already piss-faced—which she intended to be very shortly.
His piercing blue eyes twinkled, and as he leaned forward a bit, a single lock of sandy-brown hair fell across his brow. Dubheasa wanted nothing more than to smooth it back. “Ah, another lovely Irish lass.”
She preened under his teasing regard, electing not to inform him “lass” was a Scottish term, and not Irish.
The hair on the back of her neck lifted just before Ronan placed a proprietary hand on her hip. “We don’t say ‘lass,’ amadán. It’s cailín, for future reference.”
Dubheasa shot an elbow behind her and impacted Ronan’s midsection. She smiled in satisfaction when his breath rushed past her ear. “You can call me ‘lass’ if you prefer, friend. I’m not a snob like O’Connor here.”
The stranger’s wide, delighted grin was her reward. “I’d like to buy you a drink.” He glanced between them. No doubt registering her interest and Ronan’s scowl. “If you aren’t otherwise engaged.”
“Nope. No engagement here.” Not now, not ever. And perhaps it made her a wee bit sad, but she wouldn’t think about betrayal at the moment. Especially when a good-looking and exceedingly well-built stranger wanted to keep her company this night. “But the pint is on the house.” She pointed up. “My family.”
His gaze followed where she indicated. “Ah, O’Malley. Of course. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few of your siblings—”
“Can we move this gabfest inside?” Ronan’s surliness wasn’t in any doubt. “Some of us want a pint and a warm fire to gather around.”
Dubheasa spun back to face him. “You’ll not be setting one over-large foot inside, ya lickarse bollix!”
“Now, Dove, I told ya I can explain.” Ronan’s flush spoke of his anger, and Dubheasa had to give him credit for keeping his cool in the face of her assaults and insults.
“Feck off!” She intended to shove his chest. Unfortunately, he caught her wrist at the same time she put her weight behind the push, and she fell into him. When he wrapped one of his steely arms around her waist, she lost the ability to breathe. The second time in less than five minutes!
His slow, wicked smile restarted her lung function—and her irritation. What the bloody hell was wrong with her? Had her hormones gone on the blink? Why was she sizing up every male within a kilometer radius for a potential shag? Her response to Ronan should be nothing but revulsion at this juncture.
The stranger behind her cleared his throat, and Dubheasa realized too much time had passed as she stood and ogled Ronan’s stunning, albeit duplicitous, face. With a low growl, she struggled free of his embrace and straightened her jumper.
“Eejit,” she hissed before turning to smile at the American. “Let’s get that pint, yeah?”
Not bothering to see if he followed, Dubheasa strode toward the bar. She was halfway to her destination when she remembered she should walk at a more sedate pace and not stalk forward with her standard no-nonsense stride, the way a man did. Halting and shifting back, she crashed into a granite-like chest. She hadn’t expected the contact, and the force of the collision sent her stumbling into the closest table. Curses and mugs went flying.
Ronan caught Dubheasa before she hit the floor, but was hard-pressed not to laugh. Her admirer had frozen in horror when she’d upended the table and began to swear like a sailor in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy.
“Aye. You should run now, man. This one’s got a temper on her, in case ya hadn’t noticed.” He flared his eyes wide and grimaced. “Save yourself.”
Anything the other guy might’ve said was cut short by the arrival of Ronan’s cousin, Ruairí.
“Ronan! You’re back in town!”
“More’s the pity,” Dubheasa muttered as she bent and swept foam off her sweater onto the righted table.
Ronan couldn’t resist a smack to her ass. Although it wasn’t hard enough to send her into motion, her surprise more than made up for the force of his hand. She let out a squawk as she braced her palms on the slick table to avoid a fall. Unfortunately for her, the spilled beer acted as slip and she landed facedown, arms spread-eagle atop the surface.
The drunken patrons of O’Malley’s didn’t bother to hide their amusement, and robust laughter rose along with the dark red rage in Dubheasa’s fair cheeks.
Ronan was in for it.
He backed up, hands in the air. “Now, Dove—”
She came up swinging.
Luckily for him, he was quick on his feet and had anticipated her reaction. He danced out of her reach, but he couldn’t stop his laughter. Of course, her face went from a brilliant scarlet to a dull purple, and Ronan feared her raised blood pressure was at stroke level. He quickly blanked his face of all but a conciliatory smile.
“I didn’t know that was going to happen, darlin’. You have to believe that.” But the devil in him had come out to play when he saw the way the wet jumper clung to her curves. “Ya must be cold, me darlin’ Dove. Come home with me, and I’ll warm ya right up.”
There was a day when she’d have said yes, but this was not it.
A mug sailed by his ear and shattered on the wall behind him.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
Ruairí, usually the wisest of his family, showed he wasn’t so smart as he stepped in front of Dubheasa. “No murder in the pub, or Bridget will have your arse. Take him out back, where there won’t be any witnesses.”
“Hey!” Ronan knew familial loyalty only went so far. Sure, and hadn’t he cut himself off from those crazy feckers, Moira and Seamus, when they went off the rails? Seamus had died immediately for his sins, but the hateful Moira’s death was much more painful, thanks to the Aether. Only his father, Loman, remained at large. But Ronan would see to his da’s permanent demise soon enough.
Right now, Ronan was invested in the welfare of his currently irate ex-lover, who he fully intended to win back by any means necessary. Never one to play fair, he’d do whatever it took to make her his again. The O’Malleys could have their magic; he wanted their crown jewel—Dubheasa.Return to Wine & Warlocks