READ EXCERPT - Brides O' the Emerald Isle

BRIDES O' THE EMERALD ISLE by Linda Windsor, Pamela Griffin, Vickie McDonough, Tamela Hancock Murray

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The Brides O' The Emerald Isle Anthology
Featuring: Of Legend and Love
by: Linda Windsor, Pamela Griffin, Vickie McDonough, Tamela Hancock Murray

Barbour Publishing
ISBN: 1593106319
April 2005


 

He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love. -- 1 John 4:8

Chapter One

Moyra Rose O'Cullen stood before the dressmaker's mirror, struck with horror. "I look like an over-ripe ripe eggplant!" She'd have expounded on her horror further, but her lip was still stiff from dental anesthesia. Of all the days for her to lose a filling--a fitting from Mars, or some such place, and the most important-alright her first-international media interview in her new career as tourism director of Ballymara coming in on the Bus Eireann from Dublin.

Always the tactful one, aren't you, Moyra?" her sister Katie observed from one of the chairs in the fitting room.

Moyra turned first one way, then the other, trying her utmost to find an attractive angle. It was futile. The dark purple garment ballooned from its fitted bodice out and around her hips like…well, a balloon.

"If only it flared," she observed, her R's slurring. But some male sadist, considering himself suited to design clothing for women had cinched it at the knee.

"I followed the pattern just as it said," the dressmaker commiserated.

"I'm schure you did, Nora." S's were a challenge to her anesthetized mouth as well.

"It's the rage, Aunt Moyra," her style-challenged niece told her. "And you've the height to carry it. You look like a runway model."

Moyra's hard glare softened, not from the blarney, but because she loved her elder sister's daughter. It wasn't every day that an aunt was asked to be the bride's maid of honor. But then, as wry Katie was quick to point out, it wasn't every day the aunt wasn't married at the age of twenty-nine.

"For you, Peg," Moyra told her niece, "I'll strut about looking like I just stepped off a Star Trek set."

Peg's beaming smile was worth the sacrifice. Besides, Moyra thought, glancing at the rack where the other bridesmaids' dresses hung, better an eggplant than a pink pig's bladder. Peg and her young beau had met at one of those Trekkie conventions, but since both were grounded enough to have finished school and become working professionals, Moyra allowed for their eccentricities.

"How's your jaw?" Katie asked, as Moyra changed into a tweed skirt and matching sweater.

Moyra worked it. "Schtiff as paddy in the grave," she moaned. "And I have-" Her V's weren't too clear either. "-to be at the bus schtation by noon."

"A poor plan, if you ask me…and us with the wedding only two weeks away." To hear Katie talk, one might think World Travelogue of New York had purposely set out to undermine Pegeen O'Callan's wedding to Ned McCarthy by sending one of its writers to do a story on Ballymara and the Pledging Stone.

The couple planned an out of this world wedding, but vowed their love before the ancient stone that brought couples from near and far to wed in Ballymara's little church. But then love makes fools of us all…or so they say. Moyra wasn't exactly to the brim with firsthand experience. That would require leaving the village of her heart, for she knew every eligible man within miles and had talk crops and livestock till she was blue.

"You've a heart torn between wanderlust and your roots like your da," Gran Polly told her. "Till you come to terms with one or the other, it's alone you'll be, Moyra Rose." As alone as Moyra had been when her parents died in a car crash touring Germany and Gran took the twelve-year-old fledgling in.

"I'd best be getting back to the Publick House," Katie announced to no one in particular. "Gran'll be needing help in the kitchen with the lunch crowd."

Gran's Publick House was the village gathering place for those so inclined to mix chat with music and without the alcoholic spirits. Originally a Victorian hotel and pub that covered the entire block, it was now a small coffee shop with a mostly unused dining room, bed and breakfast, and home to Moyra, her widowed sister's family, and her grandmother.

Moyra shoved her arm through the sleeve of her camel wool blazer, peeking at her watch. "Ooch, I've got to push off. Grand job of it, Nora," she consoled the dressmaker. Gathering up her handbag and slinging it over her shoulder, she called back to the others, as she exited the shop. "Tell Gran and Pat I'll be there in a jiff with our guest. And save us the corner wall booth."

Katie's answer followed her to the Landrover parked by the door on the cobbled street, more dour than reassuring. "Only the best for himself, the writer."

Lips pursed-at least from what Moyra could feel on the one side-Moyra fastened her seatbelt and started the vehicle. Her sister-in-law had a dear heart, no clue how big this visit was for Ballymara. A prestigious magazine as World Travelogue featuring the Pledging Stone and chapel was the biggest opportunity since the veneer factory outside of town opened in the nineteen-sixties and sure to save the dear couple who'd just bought the bankrupt Ballymara Castle.

Pierce and Mary Brennan had already spent a fortune on bed and breakfast part and now worked on the hall, which was perfect for wedding receptions. Ballymara Castle was the ideal mate to Pledging Stone Chapel, where couples came from all over Ireland to be married. If Moyra could infect this Jack Andrews with the same passion she had for Ballymara and the romantic Pledging Stone, there was no telling what might lie in store for her beloved town.

#

The grass was green, the sky was bright and the wind tried its best to strip the yellow petals from the forsythia blooming everywhere as far as Jack Andrew's cynical could see. It was spring and he could feel the goosebumps on his flesh huddling beneath his trench coat. Between the damp chill and exhaustion, all Jack wanted was a comfortable bed with clean linens and a good day's-or was it night's?-sleep.

While the passengers in first class on the airline slept peacefully, tucked in their lounge chairs with flannel blankets and pillows, Jack had the misfortune of sitting in the midst of a group of high school band students who were badly in need of a Ritalin dip. Not that sleep had been so easy of late, what with rumors of layoffs at the office circulating.

As a junior writer, he could see the handwriting on the wall. They'd keep that ageing, pot-bellied king of florid prose and show Jack the door. Just as his ex-fiance had-- may her new husband rest in lack of peace. A sardonic smile twisted Jack's lips as the Dublin mountains, blanketed in spring violet, gave way to hillsides specked with small clumps of farm buildings.

He didn't need her, or anyone for that matter. The muse was his passion. Travel was his middle name. No roots, no ties. That's just the way he wanted it. The only catch in that dream was the means to afford such a life.

And that was why this assignment had to be more than good-it had to be outstanding. No nonsense about promises made over some stone in a church being unbreakable-anyone could write that. But disproving the legend, now that would put muscle in his article-Ballymara: Quaint, Charming, and Fake. All he had to do was figure out how, he thought, studying the overdone brochure put out by its tourism department. The way it read, Ballymara was all but the spot of the Second Coming.

After a while, the bus slowed, groaning as though giving birth. Jack looked up to see where the driver was taking them. Ahead was a petrol/market at a crossroad. An official looking sign identified the route number that they were on, although under it was tacked a homemade affair defining the highway as the Killbog-Ballymara Road. Jack stuffed the brochure in his travel bag. Evidently this was the bus stop to Ballymara.

"Have a banner day, sor," the bus driver called after Jack as he stepped onto the rocky, unpaved parking lot.

A banner day for a duck maybe, Jack thought, managing an answering wave as rain slapped against his all-weather coat. Shoes grinding in the coarse dirt, he raced between a flatbed farm truck and a beige Landrover for the door. As he reached for the handle, a tall Maureen O'Hara clone opened the door for him.

"Fine day for ducks, isn't it?"

And the Brits waste time cloning sheep, he thought, taking in her soft green eyes and the dark auburn hair spilling in rebellious curls over the cowl of her sweater. "I think I've met my soulmate."

Confusion grazed her expression. Her smile widened, at least part of it did. And she'd put an sh on the end of ducks. Cloning did have some drawbacks. "I'd just thought the same thing," he explained. "About ducks."

"Oh." She laughed, confirming the song lyrics about Irish eyes smiling. Sure 'twas like a mornin' spring to Jack's eye. "And would you by any chance, be Jack Andrews?"

"I would. And you would be…?"

She extended her hand. "Moyra O'Cullen," she said, glancing at his wet leather travel bag. "Is that all your luggage?"

"That's it." So Mr. O'Cullen had a wife... a beauty with a mild speech impediment. Jack ignored a strange sense of deflation. He'd had it with women anyway.

"Would you like to dry off and have a cup of tea before we set out in the deluge?"

"How about a coffee?"

The colleen grimaced. "If you can wait fifteen minutes, I'll have you in a cozy place where the coffee's good and the food is better." She glanced at her watch. "'Tis nigh past lunch, but anything for you, Mr. Andrews."

Whether it was the mention of coffee or the fact that Moyra O'Cullen shook him into a four-alarm alert, Jack found her proposal appealing. "Will Mr. O'Cullen be there?" he asked.

A rose pink tinged the creamy white of her complexion and darkened the sprinkle of freckles around the cutest turned up nose he'd ever seen. "I might look an old maid, Mr. Andrews, but it's brutish to point it out."

"No…no," he stammered, wishing he could rewind his tongue. "You're a fox and a half, but my business was with a Mr. Cullen."

The prickly square of her shoulders dropped. Jack was a sucker for that forties tailored, shoulder-padded type. Give him a classy Hepburn, or the lady before him now, over MTV divas any day.

"Well I don't know how that could be," she puzzled aloud, ending with a vexed pout that nailed Jack's attention. "You see-" She touched the side of her mouth, self-conscious perhaps that it refused to work with her. "I'm Ballymara's director of tourism and there's none above me, save the mayor, Andrew Creagan."

Her words penetrated Jack's unexpected fascination. "None?"

"The last I heard." She shrugged on a raincoat from the rack next to the door. "Shall we be off then?"

He'd been off since he looked into those Irish eyes of hers. Jack opened the door so that Moyra could precede him. "My pleasure, Miss Moyra O'Cullen." The oddest thing was, he meant it.