Escorted by Fian guards Rory and Barry, Talty and Neil Boru stop for an unforgettable meal.
Outside the pub, the storm finally broke. Rain bucketed down, beating against the windowpanes. A murky air fell over the room.
The turf fire mesmerized Talty. She’d dreamed of scenes like this when she’d lived in Japan and California. "There’s nothing like a turf fire on a rainy day."
Neil fondled her hand with deliberate intimacy. "I can think of a few things."
Rory fumbled with his beer. Barry studied the old photos on the walls.
Ignoring them, Talty savored the lusty gleam in her lover’s sky-blue eyes. For someone who’d once taken great pains to hide his tender feelings, Neil flaunted them often now that they were married. She slipped her hand beneath the table and stroked his thigh.
The arrival of their food interrupted the luscious moment. The hungry travelers made short work of the tantalizing meals the waitress set down.
The young woman had just cleared the table when Barry nodded toward the door. "You have fans, Tal."
Two damp little girls who’d been among the children playing outside had come in from the rain. They stopped a few feet short of the table and stared with wide green eyes, their hands behind their backs.
The older girl was about eight, the younger no more than six. Carrot-red hair crowned both girls’ heads. The little one wore hers in a straight, sodden ponytail, while a mass of wild curls sprouted in all directions from the older child’s head. Their identical, freckled-spattered faces marked them as sisters.
Talty couldn’t help grinning. "Hello. Can we help you?"
The younger girl shoved the older toward the table. "You’re the Lady Princess," said the curly-haired miss in a barely audible voice.
"Yes, I am. I’m Talty Boru, and these gentlemen are my husband, Neil, and our friends, Barry and Rory. Who are you?"
"I’m Mary Margaret Gannon. This is my sister, Joanie."
The table was between the girls and Talty, and so she nodded instead of offering her hand. "It’s fine to meet you, Mary Margaret. You too, Joanie."
The rain stopped. Breaking sunshine chased the gloom from the pub, as if it had received some cue to spotlight the meeting.
Mary Margaret swung her hand around and held out a gorgeous, fresh-cut rose whose splendid crimson petals basked in a stray sunbeam. "We brought this for you, Lady Princess."
Gasping with delight, Talty stood and lifted the rose gently from the girl’s hand, cupping the delicate bloom in her fingers to avoid the thorns. After a quick shake to remove the glistening raindrops, she inhaled the flower’s musky fragrance. "It’s perfect! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a lovely rose."
The girls beamed. Talty glanced at the bar, where Mossy Burke stood beaming as well. He gave her a wink and continued wiping his barware with a linen towel.
Little Joanie made some sort of bobbing gesture. "We hope you like it, Lady Princess."
"I love it. Thank you."
With gap-toothed grins of delight, the girls turned and skipped across the floor. They skidded to a stop when a menacing figure entered the pub and blocked the entrance. Barry and Rory stiffened. Neil turned sideways to shield Talty.
The fiddle music stopped. The patrons’ heads swiveled toward the hellcat glowering over the room.
She pointed at the girls when she spotted them. "Here you are, evil little felons! I saw you from the window, cutting my prize roses! What have you to say for yourselves?"
Nothing, it seemed. The girls stood like round-eyed statues.
Talty’s hand shot to her mouth. "Oh, no! Do something, Neil!"
A grin lit Neil’s face. He pushed his chair back and said beneath his breath, "What harm can there be having lunch in a pub?" A few quick strides brought him to the girls. "They meant no harm, ma’am. I’ll gladly pay for the damage, as they took the rose for my wife."
The woman shook her fists at the girls. "I don’t care if they took it for the pope! That rose was to be judged tomorrow afternoon. I’m sure it would have won first prize. They could have had anything else in the garden, if they’d only asked. Thieves! Villains!"
Neil touched the girls’ shoulders. "You’d best apologize to the lady."
The tiniest squeak escaped from Joanie’s mouth. Mary Margaret said, "We’re very sorry, Aunt Betty. We took the best one because it was for the Lady Princess."
The woman’s eyes seemed about to pop out, as if trying to flee from her wrath. "Liars as well as thieves! Wicked heathens! We’re going straight to the church to see Father O’Malley."
Talty glared at the snickering Rory and Barry and jumped from her seat.
* * * * *
A Band of Roses / E-book Available from
Fiery Roses / E-book Available from
Salty Roses / E-book Available from