Shamrocks Are a Girl’s Best Friend
by Lucinda Race
Contemporary Romance, Later in Life
Battered, broken and looking for solitude smoke jumper Tric heads to Last Chance Beach and without warning walks into Kelly's cottage. She knows from experience this is the best place for him to recover and she'll share her safe haven with him. Will a bit of Irish luck and a matchmaking uncle give them a chance to find love?
Tric Ryan has spent the majority of his adult life jumping out of airplanes and into infernos. That is until a fateful jump nearly ends his career as a smoke jumper. Badly in need of a change, he drives to Last Chance Beach to recover. A short respite at Shamrock Cottage promises him the solitude he needs to recoup, or to figure out how he’ll face a future without the dangerous job he loves.
Kelly O’Malley moved to Last Chance Beach after a broken heart. She’s living in her uncle’s rental, Shamrock Cottage, after a fire destroys her home. Brandishing a skillet she’s ready to defend her safe haven from the battered and bruised man in her living room. A quick call to her uncle confirms the mix-up, and that he’s accidentally rented the cottage to both Tric and her for an open-ended stay. When they both agree they can share the spacious vacation home, sparks are sure to fly.
Kelly helps Tric recover with easy walks on the beach and friendship. Will the magic of Last Chance Beach, with a dash of luck from the Irish, heal the heartaches Kelly and Tric carry and help them find the love and a future they both deserve? After all Shamrocks are a girl’s best friend.
Kelly O’Malley crept down the hallway of Shamrock Cottage, her heart pounding in her chest. The early morning sun streamed through the skylights and the hardwood floor was cool against her bare feet on this late-January morning. The weight of her cell phone was comforting in her sweatpants pocket.
Who the heck was in her house?
She slid along the wall like she had seen in those movies on television where the girl sleuth was stalking the unknown. Dramatic much? When she reached the end of the hall, she peeked around the corner, her gaze sweeping the open space of the living and dining rooms and kitchen. Standing in front of the sliding glass doors, looking out over the ocean, was a very tall man, even by her standards, as Kelly was tapping six feet herself. With a backpack over one shoulder and an enormous canvas duffel bag at his feet, he leaned heavily on a cane.
She tiptoed to the counter and grabbed the cast iron skillet, being careful not to make a sound. If he’d heard her, he hadn’t moved.
She raised the skillet to shoulder height, clutching it with two hands for good swinging leverage. “What are you doing in my house?”
The man slowly turned, grimaced, clutched his leg, and held up his other hand with the cane dangling from it. “What are you doing in my rental?” Confusion and pain clouded his eyes. “I promise I can’t hurt you.” He gestured to his leg. “Recovering from surgery and exhausted from a long drive.”
She didn’t lower her makeshift weapon but instead looked him over from head to toe. He was ruggedly handsome but did look road weary. “Rental?”
“Yes, well, actually this place belongs to a friend of my uncle, who’s a fire chief in Chicago. I signed the agreement on Rental Direct.” He shifted his backpack on his shoulder. “I can show you the agreement on my laptop.”
Well, that was the company her aunt and uncle used to rent their cottage, but that was before her house had burned to the ground in November and left her homeless.
He’d better come up with the right names or she’d call the police to escort him out and then change the code for the door lock. That thought caused her to frown; she’d changed it at the beginning of December.
“John Bannon, and he’s friends with Kevin O’Malley and his wife. I can’t remember her name.”
Well, that was her uncle. She kept holding the skillet with one hand and with the other withdrew her cell. “Joan. Her name is Joan. I’m going to give him a call and I’ll put it on speakerphone.”
“Good idea.” He took a slow, halting step toward her and a flash of agony washed over his face.
She softened but still brandished the skillet even though her arm was beginning to tremble. She lowered it. “No funny business.”
He held up his hands in surrender. “Promise.” He gestured to a chair. “Mind if I sit?”
She pointed to a stool on the other side of the breakfast bar. Kelly didn’t want to look like she was a pushover, but his face was stark white and the last thing she wanted was for him to collapse.
Placing the cell on the counter, she stared at the man across from her. After the fourth ring, a deep male voice said, “Kelly, this is a surprise.”
“Hi, Uncle Kevin. I’ve got a situation down here.”
“There’s a list of qualified repair people on the island. You don’t need to call us before you take care of business.”
“It’s not that kind of issue. I have a man in my cottage and he says you rented this place to him.” Then it dawned on her that he hadn’t said his name. “Who are you?”
“Patrick Ryan, but my friends call me Tric.” He gave her a strained smile.
“Did you hear that? Patrick Ryan is in my home.”
“Oh, shoot, Kel. I’m sorry. Up until this moment, I’d forgotten we’d given Tric the family and friends code before your fire, which let him book even though I had put a hold on new rentals. He needed a place to recover once he was well enough to travel, and you know the magic of Last Chance Beach has a way of healing all wounds.”
“You forgot to tell me you rented the house to a stranger. What are we supposed to do?” Inwardly, she sighed. There was no way her uncle would ever rent the house to anyone sketchy.
“Any chance you two can stay under the same roof for a few days? I’ll make a few calls and see if I can find a new rental for Patrick.”
She rolled her shoulders. Not that her uncle could see it but it made her feel better. “I guess, but do me a favor and make sure the rental listing is hidden on RD. I don’t want anyone else showing up as a surprise houseguest.”
He gave a hearty chuckle. “I promise that won’t happen and I’m sure in no time, you two will adjust to living under one roof, at least for a few days.”
Under her breath, she muttered, “Don’t count on it.” Louder, she said, “Give Aunt Joan a hug for me.”
“Will do, and we’ll talk soon.”
She hit the end button and studied Patrick Ryan. He was easy on the eyes, with his dark-brown hair in an old-fashioned style, deep-blue eyes with crinkles at the corners, and a crooked nose that had obviously been broken at one time. Why did he have to sport deep dimples in both cheeks? It was her weakness in any guy—the deeper the dimple, the harder she’d fall.
“So, Patrick, it seems that we’re stuck together for a while until my uncle can make some calls to other cottage owners.”
“Please call me Tric. And I take it you’re Kelly.”
She nodded. “Kelly O’Malley and yes”—she held up her thumb and index finger with a small space between them—“I’m a wee bit Irish.” She found herself smiling. “What kind of nickname is that? Why not Rick or Pat?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m kind of a jokester around my crew and it sort of stuck.”
“Fireman for the last twenty years. Well, until I got hurt.”
She leaned against the counter. “What happened?”
“Stupid accident. I broke my femur, ribs, and punctured a lung for good measure. A bunch of hardware later and I’m here to tell the tale.”
He was nonchalant about his injury. But she could see the truth in his eyes; it had been bad and recovery was taking a long time.
“Well, how about since we’re stuck together, I’ll give you the grand tour. There’s plenty of room for both of us.” She gave him a polite smile. They might be forced roommates, but they didn’t need to be super cozy with each other.
“If possible, could you tell me which cupboard the glasses are in first? I need to take a pain pill after being in the car so long.”
“Oh, jeez. I’ll get it for you.” She opened a cabinet above the sink and pulled out a glass, which she filled from the jug of water in the refrigerator. “Don’t drink water from the tap; it’s always tepid, but if you see the jug getting low, fill it up. I’ve got a backup jug too.”
“I’ll just pick up some bottled water.” He accepted the glass and popped a pill in his mouth and took a long drink. “Thanks.”
“Don’t waste money on buying water. There are reusable bottles in the cabinet.” She put the jug back into the fridge and crossed the spacious room to the glass doors. “Out that way is the beach and ocean, in case you missed it.” She cocked her head. “Where did you say you’re from?”
“I didn’t, but a suburb of Chicago.”
“As you can tell, we’ve got no snow or frigid temperatures. Just mild winds and lots of sun every day. It’s like being on vacation.” She grinned. “Well, you are on vacation.”
She pointed to the television. “We have satellite and I’ll give you the password for the WiFi.” She walked in the direction of the other side of the house and stopped before going down the hall. “There are four bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms, and in the main bath, there is a washer and dryer. I have the bedroom on the left and I’ve also taken over the smaller room next to that for my office, but you can choose either of the other rooms. Both have a decent view.” She pointed to the rooms that were on the right. “Take your pick.”
“Your office? What do you do for work?” He hobbled to where she stood.
With each step he took, she held her breath, waiting for him to topple over. “Freelance website designer for all types of small businesses, authors, audiobook narrators, and I also do a little cover design. My background is in graphic art. I’m pretty quiet when I work so I shouldn’t disturb you.”
“I’m more concerned I might bother you, so I’ll be invisible during working hours.”
She waved a hand at him. “That’s really nice but I usually listen to music while I work, so I never hear a thing, and I’ll use headphones if you’re still sleeping.”
He eased open the door to the bedroom farthest from the heart of the home. “I’ll take this one.” He slowly walked back down the hall. “I need my bags.”
Kelly held out a hand. “I’ll get them for you.” She hurried to where he had dropped them and came back half dragging the duffel. “What do you have in here, a dead body or something?”
“A few books and clothes.”
She gave him a long look and crossed her arms over her chest. “How long were you planning on staying in Last Chance Beach?”
“At least two months. I have to finish healing and then get strong enough to pass a physical and endurance test to get back to active duty in the department. If I can’t, I may be washed up.”
She placed his bags just inside the bedroom. With a reassuring smile, she said, “If there’s any place that will work its magic, it’s here. I swear there’s something in the air that just makes all problems evaporate, or maybe it’s the ocean and our troubles just get washed away.”
“I hope you’re right.” He waited until she was back in the hall before he entered the room. “I’m going to unpack, but I’ll catch up with you later.”
“If you need something, I’ll be in my office. With the door open.” Why she felt the need to add that was beyond her. But something about him tugged at her heart.
“Thanks, Kelly. I’m sorry about earlier. I had no idea there was anyone here when I came inside. I feel bad I scared you.”
“What, you thought I was scared because I was wielding a skillet? That’s always how I greet people. It makes me memorable.”
He gave her a weak smile. “It’s one greeting I won’t forget anytime soon.” He closed the door and then opened it. “Kelly, when do computers overheat?”
She tipped her head to one side. Was he worried about a fire in her home office? “Um?”
“When they need to vent.” His smile grew a little wider, but it still didn’t reach his eyes. He closed the door for a second time.
She stood there, staring at the white-painted door. She had noticed he looked like a man lost and not from his physical injury, but maybe there was more to what had happened than he said. Not that being a firefighter wasn’t a dangerous job, but the haunted look on his face gave her the impression something else weighed heavy on his mind. She smiled when she thought of his joke. He had a lame sense of humor, but it was charming at the same time. But she had meant what she said—being at the beach restored souls and healed hearts. After all, wasn’t that why she found herself living here?
Before going into her office to start the workday, she detoured to the kitchen. After the adrenaline rush from the early morning, she needed coffee, lots of dark roasted cups of caffeine. She paused midstep and was going to ask Tric if he wanted any but before she tapped on his door, she could already hear the gentle sound of snoring. The poor man was exhausted from driving straight through from Chicago and was weak as a kitten. She eased away and headed toward the coffee pot. Today, she’d work without music just until she got used to her temporary houseguest.
Tric dropped to the bed. Exhaustion washed over him as he hoped to get a surge of energy. Driving to Last Chance Beach from Chicago had been a dumb idea. Each mile on the odometer had drained him even though he’d thought he’d been up to the trip. The real reason he had driven was because he didn’t know if he was going back to Chicago. Pretty much all his important belongings were either in the trunk of his car or in his duffel bag. And as far as a much-needed change of scenery, being in the company of the tall, dark-haired beauty with soulful gray eyes was a good distraction. He fell back on the bed without taking off his shoes and closed his eyes, but his last thought was of Kelly’s captivating smile.
Award-winning and best-selling author Lucinda Race is a lifelong fan of romantic fiction. As a young girl, she spent hours reading romance novels and getting lost in the hope they represent. While her friends dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, her dreams were to become a writer—a romance novelist.
As life twisted and turned, she found herself writing nonfiction but longed to turn to her true passion. After developing the storyline for The Loudon Series, it was time to start living her dream. Her fingers practically fly over computer keys she weaves stories about strong women and the men who love them.
Lucinda lives with her husband and their two little dogs, a miniature long hair dachshund and a shitzu mix rescue, in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. When she's not at her day job, she’s immersed in her fictional worlds. And if she’s not writing romance novels, she’s reading everything she can get her hands on. It’s too bad her husband doesn’t cook, but a very good thing he loves takeout.
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