I shoved open the door of O’Malley’s Pub and Grille and took a moment to study the interior. Although I’d never been inside before, the dark wood paneling and rustic atmosphere immediately appealed to me. The pub has a homey kind of feel to it, and obviously, it’s a popular place. Groups of people laughing and having a good time were seated at several round tables. They all seemed happy and content. Why can’t I be one of them?
I pushed a streamer of shamrocks away from my face as I strolled to the bar and sat down. At that moment, the last thing I wanted was to be around boisterous people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, but I didn’t feel like going home to an empty apartment, either. The fact that I was alone and had nobody to talk to made me feel even worse.
“What kin I get ya, lass?”
I looked up at the sound of the Irish accent. The deep rumble of the bartender’s voice sent a ripple of excitement down my spine. I felt myself involuntarily start to relax as I gazed into his light-brown eyes.
The bartender brushed back a lock of blond hair and looked me up and down.
“’Ave ya got a preference, or shall I bring ya a pitcher of green beer? ‘Tis our special today.”
I stared at him a moment, slightly overwhelmed by his manner of speaking. Is he for real or just putting on a show for me?
“A glass of red wine would be fine,” I answered.
“Very well, then!” He winked. “I’ll be right back.”
I watched him walk off and smiled in spite of myself. His overly cheerful disposition started to crack my bad mood. And on that day, of all days, I desperately needed a diversion to take my mind off my troubles.
I pulled a white envelope from my purse and stared at it for a minute. There was no need to read the contents again. I had opened the innocent-looking envelope at my desk—correction, my former desk—an hour ago. The world seemed to spin as I read the short and to-the-point memo. The company was downsizing and several “non-vital” employees were being let go, effective immediately.
I glanced around the bar and shook my head. Mr. Wallace had some nerve, laying me off after five years. Now what am I going to do?
A glass of wine appeared in front of me, snapping me from my thoughts.
“’Ere ya go, lass. Are ya hungry? Ya picked a good day to stop in. We’ve got a special—”
“You can drop the accent. I’m not buying it,” I grumbled.
To my chagrin, the bartender leaned forward and rested his elbows on the bar in front of me. “I’m afraid I canna do that. I was born with it.” He pointed to the “Kiss me, I’m Irish” button pinned to his green shirt. “You’re talkin’ to a man born and raised in Kilarney.”
I felt my face flush with embarrassment. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it like it sounded. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and—”
“And everyone talks with a ridiculous accent.” He smiled, displaying a set of dimples. “Don’t fret, lass. There’s no harm done. I’m used to it. Just last week, I was at the grocery store and someone asked me if I was English or Australian.” He rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I’m Conor O’Brien.” He arched an eyebrow. “And you are?”
He grinned. “Irish. I should’ve known,” he teased.
I laughed. Maybe it was his charming good looks, his odd sense of humor, or his lilting brogue, but Conor’s presence had a calming effect on me. With him around, I couldn’t help but feel at ease, and I wanted to keep him talking. “Irelandis so beautiful. What made you leave and come over here?”
“You’ve been there?” he asked, cocking his head to one side.
“Aye,” I replied with a slight smile. “I love to travel. A few years ago, I spent a week there with my ex-boyfriend. The countryside was lovely—it was too bad he wasn’t. He complained the entire time. He saidIreland was too cold and rainy,” I explained.
“He wasn’t Irish from the sound of it, now was he?”
“Brad? Not at all.” I leaned closer to Conor as Irish flute music started playing from the jukebox in the corner. To my pleasant surprise, Conor smelled like sandalwood. The exotic scent made my skin tingle.
“To answer your question, I followed my wild, Irish sense of adventure and it led me right here,” he said. “That was three years ago. One day, I quit my boring, office job and decided to explore the world. I came over for a visit to see if I’d like it,” he explained as he unpinned his button and fastened it to my jacket lapel.
I glanced down at the “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button and realized how much my luck had changed since entering the pub. I was enjoying every moment of Conor’s company, and my miserable mood almost entirely faded away. “And do you?” I asked.
Conor’s gaze locked onto mine. “I’m certainly liking it right now.” He bent a little closer and glanced at the button on my jacket. For a second, I felt as though I could read his mind. I knew he wanted to kiss me, and part of me wondered what it would feel like to have his warm lips pressing against mine.
“They say there’s forty shades of green inIreland, but lookin’ into your eyes, I think there’s forty-one,” he whispered.
A gentle warmth spread through my entire body, and I knew I was hooked. Conor was utterly enchanting. Something about the way he spoke made me feel special. I sipped my wine, relishing in the compliment. “That’s the most beautiful thing anyone’s ever said to me,” I replied, leaning over the bar. I glanced up as Conor licked his lips. He’s so close and kissable. . . .
“Hey, Conor, I need two more pitchers of the green stuff for table six,” a loud voice interrupted.
I sat back on the barstool and glanced over my shoulder. A waiter was standing at the bar next to me.
Conor pulled away and nodded. “Comin’ right up.” He gave me a wistful look, and then turned away and went back to work.
I sipped my wine and thought about Conor as he poured two pitchers of green beer. He’s cute, and he was saying all the right things. But is he sincere or just playing around?
I don’t have a good track record when it comes to choosing my boyfriends, and I usually end up getting my heart broken. I certainly never suspected that Brad would turn out to be a lying, cheating creep. But can I be lucky in love when it comes to Conor?
A few minutes later, Conor returned to the space in front of me.
“Sorry about that, Evelyn.” He smiled. “But a fella’s gotta work.” He gestured toward the rowdy crowd. “Today’s our busiest day of the year. I wish I had more time to devote to ya like ya deserve. Now, what were we going on about?” he asked, giving my hand a gentle squeeze.
My pulse soared, and a tingle raced through my lower body. More than anything, I ached to have Conor kiss me. It was rare that I fell for a guy so fast, but something deep down inside told me that I shouldn’t let Conor slip away. “My trip toIreland. I wish I could have stayed there for another week or two. There’s so much more I wanted to see. I never got to the Cliffs of Moher.”
He scowled. “Ya didn’t? Then you’ve gotta go back. I am.”
My heart leapt to my throat. “You are? But I thought you liked it here,” I blurted out, the apprehension obvious in my voice.
Conor patted my hand. “Don’t worry, lass, I’m not fixin’ to stay permanent. And trust me, I do like it here—especially tonight,” he said, stroking the back of my hand with his thumb. “I’m goin’ back to visit my family this summer. I’m thinkin’ of spending a few weeks here and there. If you’ll be traveling over there at the same time, I’d be more than happy to give ya the grand tour. And trust me, I won’t be complainin’ about the weather,” he teased.
I grinned. “I really would love to go back, but I can’t. I won’t be going anywhere for a while,” I muttered. For some reason, I found myself eager to confide my troubles in Conor. “I got laid off today.”
To my surprise, he chuckled. “Well, then, ya won’t have to take time off from work, now will ya?”
I laughed. Conor’s optimistic attitude made me feel better about myself—and my current situation. “That’s true. But I really should start looking for another job and—” I stopped and looked at him.
He was shaking his head. “If I’d have thought that way, I’d still be crammed into a tiny cube answering phones for a mail order company and spending my days looking out the window, wishin’ something better would come along.” He shrugged. “But here I am, having an adventure.”
I sipped my wine and thought for a moment. Conor was right. I wasn’t tied down to a job anymore, and I had been given a generous severance package. . . .
I bit my bottom lip. Part of me wanted to jump at the chance to leave the rat race behind and go wherever my heart led, but that was so unlike me. I hesitated, longing to be impulsive and carefree, yet I was so unsure. I weighed my options. A vacation would be nice. It would give me a fresh start, and I could always look for a new job when I came home. What difference would a few weeks make, anyway?
“It’s impractical, but—”
“There’s no need to decide right now. You’ve got plenty of time. The important thing is that ya do whatever makes ya happy inside.” Conor tucked a lock of my hair behind my ear and gently caressed the side of my neck. “My shift’s over in half an hour. Why don’t ya let me buy ya dinner?” His sparkling eyes searched mine. “If that’s something that’ll make ya happy,” he added.
My heart skipped a beat. There was no doubt about it. Being around Conor made me happier than I’d felt in years. “Absolutely,” I answered breathlessly. “I think today is turning out to be my lucky day, after all.”
That night, Conor took me out to a Greek restaurant. Over dinner, we got better acquainted and I realized that I was head over heels infatuated with him. At the end of the evening, we took a stroll through the park and sat down on a bench to gaze at the stars. Conor draped his arm around my shoulders and I melted inside. I cuddled against him and took a deep breath, inhaling his sexy, sandalwood scent.
“Now, there is one more thing I’d like to do that would make tonight perfect,” he said, gesturing at the “Kiss me, I’m Irish” button still pinned to my jacket. “Ya see, that button expires at midnight. . . .” He glanced at his watch. “And it’s fifteen minutes to twelve.” He smiled shyly. “We wouldn’t want to waste a good button, now would we?”
Every nerve in my body tingled with anticipation. Right then, all I wanted was to feel Conor’s mouth pressing against mine. “Not at all,” I whispered.
I draped my arms around his neck and pulled him close. Conor kissed me long and deep, and all my worries and cares faded away. We stayed on the bench, kissing and holding each other until long after midnight.
Just when things really started to heat up between us, Conor broke the embrace and offered to walk me to my car. At first, I was disappointed and a little confused. Did I do something wrong?
As we reached my car, he pulled me close and whispered, “I’m the luckiest man in the world tonight. I want everything to be special for us. Will ya come toIrelandwith me, Evelyn? I promise ya won’t regret it.”
I wrapped my arms around his ribs and rested my head against his chest. “Of course, I will,” I said, my heart thundering wildly. “I’d go anywhere with you, Conor.”
A month later, we were holding hands as our plane landed at Shannon airport. Conor and I spent two weeks traveling all over Ireland. It was the most wonderful time I’ve ever spent with anyone. On our first night, Conor and I stayed in a refurbished castle and celebrated our new found love with a “very special” romantic evening. It was a perfect night that I’ll cherish forever.
The next morning, Conor and I walked along the tops of the Cliffs of Moher. The view was exhilarating, and as I looked out over the sea, I realized how much my life changed for the better since meeting Conor. In a way, he’s my very own special lucky charm.
Conor wrapped his arms around me and kissed the side of my neck. Before I knew what was happening, he whispered, “Will ya do me the honor and marry me, Evelyn?” I gazed into his brown eyes and nodded. I knew right then and there that I’d be his—for life.
Conor and I have been together for almost a year now, and we’re still as enamored with each other as we were the first time we met. I came back fromIrelandcompletely refreshed and satisfied in a way I’d never known before. I was happier than ever, and with my new outlook on life, I quickly found a fantastic job with an advertising agency. Conor still loves working at the pub, and we’ve set a wedding date for—when else?—Our lucky day, St. Patrick’s Day.