Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 2
Buy at: www.roguephoenixpress.com
Ireland in 1817, when tensions are high between Protestants and Catholics and faey people guide the fate of villagers. A lovely Catholic lass stumbles upon the weakly ritual fisticuffing between Irish lads. She falls into the lap of a handsome young Protestant. Family ties, grudges, and two conniving faeries threaten their budding love. But the faeries outsmart themselves when they hijack a time machine that has mysteriously appeared in their forest.
The heat from the afternoon sun felt wonderful--enchanting--dreamy. When she tried to sit up, the earth whirled around her again. She wanted to feel indignant but she'd brought this on herself. She didn't quite understand why she wanted to convince this arrogant oaf she wasn't a little girl.
"You mind telling me why you tackled me?" he asked.
Casey turned her head to look at the young man. He leaned on one elbow, nonchalantly plucking a blade of grass and sticking it in his mouth. His dark black hair appeared rakishly windblown and his grin was bordered by dimples on both sides. She had the craziest urge to reach up and trace the line of his lips with her finger.
"I don't believe in fighting," she said. "It's absolutely stupid for the bunch of you to come out here on the Sabbath and fight when the rest of the week you are all bosom buddies."
"Stupid, you say?" he queried. "You dare to call me stupid?" he laughed and extended his hand. "Let me help you up. I don't think I'm ready to meet your dah with pistols on the dueling field. So I think I'd best be seeing you home."
An inferno swept through Casey. She didn't know if she still reeled from the impact or if the dizziness was something else--something magical--something supernatural. When he looked at her, she trembled and her face heated. She touched her hands to her cheeks. They felt cold and clammy. Afraid if he touched her again she might melt, she stared at a puffy cloud floating whimsically overhead.
He bent closer to her. The scent of mint filled the tiny space between them.
"You all right? Did you hear what I said?" he asked, touching a finger to the pulse throbbing at her neck. She tried to bat his hand away even while her heartbeat pounded faster, and she couldn't inhale a decent breath of air.
"Stop it," he said, and paused for a moment in his assessment of her health. "I think you will live."
"Of course I will and I can find my own way home. I'm eighteen. I turned two months ago."
"That old?" He laughed and she wanted to escape. Yet some little demon inside told her he was the last person she wanted to hide from. She felt as if her body had been taken over by something unearthly, something mysterious or filled with enchantment.
"You're going to have a black eye," she said and touched the bruise forming around his eye. "Does it hurt?"
"Come on, lass," he said still holding out his hand and sidestepping her question.
"You're ignoring me," she told him, getting up without accepting his hand and dusting off hers on her skirt.
"My apologies," he laughed, bowing slightly laugh lines crinkling his brow. "It only hurts when you remind me of it."
"Then I won't be reminding you," she said quickly.
"Casey," her brother said as he rounded the top of the hill. "You coming or do you mean to dawdle here all day?"
She jumped and pressed her fingers along her skirts to smooth them all the while feeling not a wee bit guilty, but a whole lot guilty. And I have nothing to feel ashamed of. "What are you doing here? I thought you left me to fend for myself," Casey said feeling a moment of loss at the thought her brother would be walking her home and not Kelly.
Casey pushed on the green grass, trying to unwind herself from the man beneath her, but fell again. All right, Casey lass, you're in a heap of trouble right now with no way out. You are seeing the earth whirl and tumble around and you're on top of a brute of a man--a Protestant.
"All right, lads, we'll meet here next Sunday, same place, same time," her brother's voice filtered through the air as if it floated in the fog that surrounded Casey.
Once again she pushed on the damp grass and didn't seem to make headway, her arms feeling as if they'd changed to soggy twine. Don't you abandon me, Patrick O'Connell. You know I have the Devil's own luck. If you leave me here, I'll never forgive you.
"What about Casey?" one of her brother's friend asked. "She looks a little worse for the encounter."
"Do you think we should leave her here--with Kelly?"
"He's a right stand-up guy. Of course you can leave her here. We'll see her home," a Shaunasey said.
"Well, Kelly is a fine bloke. He won't hurt her. In fact with my feisty lil' sister involved, I fear for him--not her," Patrick said laughing. "She'll do as she pleases. She always does. How can I control her when father cannot? She does not need a second father." He shrugged his shoulder and looked behind him at his little sister as he strolled down the hill.
"She's hurt," another friend called after Patrick. "What kind of brother are you?"
"One who is tired of looking after an accident prone little lass. She has to take responsibility for herself sometime, does she not?"
"She is that," one commented. "You rescue her night and day."
~ * ~
"You should have blessed her with a wee bit o'Irish coordination," Oran said dryly as he flew to a hovering position near the girl.
"And you should remember what our blessed mother told us, 'if you cannot say anythin' nice, don't say anything at all'." Moya rose above the flower petal, her wings buzzing with her anger toward her brother.
"I didn't say anything that wasn't the truth." Oran whistled out of tune for a moment. "We could kidnap them."
"And that is your solution to everything?" Moya pointed one finger at him and shook it. "Why, Oran, I believe you may fancy the lass for yourself. I will not have it. Go play your tricks on someone else's charge. She is mine to see to safety and long life. And don't be forgettin' the lad is yours to watch over."
"You best stem your anger, Moya. You're wings have turned golden," Oran said with a hearty chuckle.
~ * ~
"Let Kelly handle her," Casey's brother said with a light chuckle. "He lost and so he must deal with the object of that loss and assume the consequences. It's only fair."
"Hey!" Kelly said, "Don't leave me here with your sister. It will be hell to pay. She's a little girl. What will your father say?"
The others laughed. "Just don't take too long to decide what to do with her. Little girl or not, father will come after you with his pistol."
I just turned eighteen years old--little girl--how dare he…
"Bloody hell, Patrick. What are you thinking?" Kelly cried out.
"I'm thinking the Catholics won this fight. What are you thinking?" Patrick turned his back on the pair and whistled a jaunty tune as he strolled down the hill.
"Revenge will be sweet. Next Sunday…" Kelly shook his fist at the departing back of Casey's brother.
From what seemed like a great distance Casey heard the moan emanating from inside her battered and bruised body. She squished her eyes together, wishing her head didn't pound so fiercely, and the ground spin so wildly. "Who are you?" she whispered next to the man's chest while a soft spring breeze whispered against her heated face.
"Who am I?" the man chuckled. "Lass, you are the one who landed atop me. I should be inquiring into who you are? Only I know." His hands rested around her waist and squeezed as if he were testing--perhaps exploring--entirely inappropriate. Yet for some strange reason, Casey didn't mind the supposed to be unwanted attention. "And I don't think your brother should have left you here with the likes of me. I'm afraid I've landed myself in a dangerous predicament. And I'm thinkin' one that will be very hard to explain."
"Shame on you," Casey said. "You take liberties." The words stole her breath and she had to lean on Kelly once more in order to minimize the pounding of her head and the strange feelings emanating from where his hands were.
"I only want to remove you from--my--ah--person. And if I were taking liberties with you, lass, you'd be near swooning with passion."
"Ah, it seems you are a wee bit arrogant," she opened her eyes and gazed into the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. "The color of a summer sky," she whispered to him, still feeling woozy and not quite sure what he'd just told her--but thinking at the moment something besides the fall caused the earth to spin and the sky to tilt with a crazy, wild abandon.
"What is, lass?"
"Your eyes," she said, struggling against him and finally rolling to the side so she lay sprawled on the grass, staring into the sky she'd referred to a moment earlier and watching a white billowy cloud float past. "I'm not a little girl," she told him. "Don't ever call me that again."
"Then you want me to tell lies?" he asked with a lazy half-smile that stole Casey's heart and left her floundering. "I dinna think I can do that."
"It isn't a lie," she said, trying to sound indignant, yet frustrated beyond anything she'd ever felt before.