From the Author
"Tá tú iontach álainn," You are verra beautiful, Kell muttered in Gaelic when he looked upon the vision of loveliness crouched on the floor.
"What?" she asked, giving him a perplexed stare from eyes the sweet, clear blue of a summer sky over the River Lagan. Instead of accurately translating, Kell squatted in front of her and brushed his fingers across the smudge on her nose.
"A wee speck of dirt has taken up residence here." He could see the incongruity of his scarred knuckles against her delicate flesh and it surprised him that she didn't flinch from his big paw. When he removed the streak of dust and unnecessarily dragged the back of his hand across her flushed cheek, nothing had ever felt as exquisite as the silken skin beneath his calloused touch.
At his finest moment he wasn't a pretty man, but since he'd hammered Henderson's challenger in Fort Worth and taken a few blows himself, his face wasn't at its best.
"You're Kellan Lonigan, Edge Grayson's friend," she said in a husky whisper.
"That I am," he agreed. "And you would be...?" He waited for her response, watching rose colored lips form her answer.
"Tali. Natalia Fitzwilliam." Her dark brows and darker lashes accented the warmth in her expressive eyes as she introduced herself.
"Ye would be the wee sprite's other friend," Kell murmured, feeling almost breathless as her smile smote him a mighty blow, knocking him back on his heels.
Bluidy hell--as Kell savored the look of her moist pink lips, the dimples that indented each rosy cheek, and the tiny creased laugh lines fanning from the corners of her beautiful eyes, his usually quite sensible cock became unruly. And then the miscreant reared its foolish head, unfurled into full stance, and left him shifting from thigh to thigh, trying to disguise his condition.
"An bhfuil tu posta?" he murmured.
"That's very rude you know," she scolded him. His face flooded with color and then he almost collapsed in relief when she added, "Speaking in a language I can't understand."
"Is it now?" He felt a bit hoarse and struggled to get out something sensible that wouldn't scare her away. "I've lived by meself for a bit and forgotten the niceties of getting along. Are you married is what I ask."
"I'm not wed yet, but will be soon." Her cheeks took on an even rosier glow as she shook her head.
"So yer betrothed--what is the name of this lucky man?" Insanely he thought of hunting the fellow down and persuading him to move on. Then, of course he cast that idea aside as barbaric and unworthy of such as her. Still...
Her blush deepened. "My engagement isn't official."
"Ahh..." He looked at her thoughtfully. Reprieve. She hadn't spoken a name so perhaps some gobshite bastard was toying with her affections.
"Bluidy fool to let one such as yerself go unclaimed. Were you mine..." He stopped, realizing that he'd said too much, leaned too close, and blabbered the wrong things.
"Will you be attending the dance on Saturday?" she asked.Instead of recoiling from his proximity, she tilted her chin, waiting expectantly for his answer.
"Aye." He was incapable of uttering more as her husky tone and sweet warm breath fuddled his senses. He had no idea what she spoke of but he'd find out. His dancing didn't amount to more than a shuffle from foot to foot, but the thought of holding her in his arms--even if a stately distance from his body--made his cockstand throb painfully. This in turn reminded him that he needed a graceful way of exiting before he revealed the state of his groin.
"The First Annual Annona Ice Cream Social and Dance is this Saturday," she told him in a rush.
When she didn't elaborate, Kell grunted, picked up the nearly full crate of canned peaches, held it in front of the thick erection tenting his trews, and walked to the payment counter where the Postmistress, Beth-something-or-other, the-wee-sprite's-second-friend,stood waiting.
"These," he managed to spit out.
"Do you want me to create an account for you?"
"You're taking the whole box of peaches?"
"Aye." After being so gob-smacked by the lass hiding in the grocery aisle, he praised his ability to use the pencil and paid no heed to what he signed. When he scribbled his name to the bill the clerk presented, he might easily have been guaranteeing payment for the town's yearly expenses.