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      Bride of the Emerald Isle

      Trish Wylie


      For my brother Neil—whose birthday

       I completely forgot while writing this book….



















      KEELIN O’DONNELL had always been a morning person. But today was testing her love of the a.m. to its limits…

      She paused, looked back down the road, and sighed. The house had to be somewhere near by now, surely? Did people still die on the moors?

      There was the sound of barking nearby.

      ‘Great.’ She scowled as she looked towards the source of the sound. ‘Now I’m going to be eaten by wild dogs. The Hound of the Baskervilles lives.’

      The barking sounded closer again. Not so much of a rabid-dog sound as an excited yapping, which made her feel vaguely better, so her blue eyes searched what she could see of the surrounding countryside. With the last of the early morning mist clearing she could finally see more than the outline of the old stone walls on either side of her. Now there were fields, swirling with a hint of mist in pockets where the ground was still wet with morning dew.

      She could hear the sea in the background, could smell it in the air. But even with the reassuring, steady rhythm of waves hitting rocks, she still felt like the last person left on earth. Until her peripheral vision caught sight of a shadow looming through a pocket of mist.

      The dogs sounded closer, too, one of them appearing at the shadow’s feet. And then a voice called one of them, followed by a whistle. So Keelin knew the figure was male. A man walking straight towards her—practically dreamlike—like some kind of early morning ghost.

      The mist swirled again in pockets at his feet, the sun came out and caught in a glint off his dark hair. And Keelin stood transfixed as he got closer and looked straight at her.

      He was sensational.

      Straight out of the pages of some big-city magazine trying to sell country-wear to women who dearly hoped those clothes would make their citified men turn into this Adonis.

      But as his tall, lean frame made its way over the uneven ground, two bouncing Springer Spaniels at his heel, Keelin almost felt transported back in time.

      It was the clothes. It had to be. Long, waxed coat, open necked loose shirt; he even had a walking stick, for crying out loud! If Heathcliff had looked half as good in the early morning light on the moors then it was a wonder Cathy ever let him go…

      As he got closer, his gaze still fixed on her, Keelin felt her mouth go dry. Where had this kind of man been hiding away from the world? Here, on some tiny island off the coast of Co. Kerry? What a waste.

      ‘Good morning.’

      Lord, he even sounded good; the most gorgeously deep, multifaceted, rumbling masculine tone. A symphony of a voice. Was he real?

      Keelin stared up at him as he got closer, blinking her eyes slowly in stark appreciation. After all, she’d always been a bit of a sucker for tall, dark and handsome. What woman wasn’t?

      Say something, Keelin!

      She silently cleared her throat and managed a husky. ‘Hello.’

      Oh, great start.

      The man continued staring at her. ‘Are you lost?’

      If his eyes were as great close up as the rest of him looked from a few feet away, then there was a very good chance she would be, but. ‘Not according to the man in the hotel who gave me directions, no.’

      ‘Patrick?’ He smiled briefly, white teeth flashing and a momentary hint of deep dimples appearing on his cheeks as he continued closing the distance between them. ‘Told you it was only a stretch of the legs, did he?’

      With legs the length of this man’s it probably was. But Keelin was only five feet five on a heels day. And Valentia Island was hardly the place for heels.

      She nodded resignedly. ‘A regular running joke for him, is it?’

      ‘Afraid so.’ His gaze still fixed on her, he reached one large hand down to a bouncing dog, which wagged its tail manically in appreciation. ‘Where were you looking to get to?’

      ‘Inishmore House.’ Keelin tried her best not to feel jealous of a wet dog. After all, no one had patted her head since she was nine and she’d hated it then. ‘It’s s’posed to be out here somewhere. And I read in a brochure that this island was only seven miles across so I can’t have too much further to go before I fall off the other side.’

      ‘Oh, you’ve a mile or two to go before that happens.’

      ‘That’s reassuring.’

      He made the final few steps to the opposite side of the stone wall, which created a barrier between them. Keelin was momentarily distracted as one set of paws appeared on top of it, rocking a loose stone. The dog looked up at her with a tilted head, pondering her with soulful brown eyes before its long tongue appeared and it appeared to grin at her.

      Smiling softly in response, Keelin let her eyes stray upwards to meet his. Rich, toffee colored eyes, framed with thick dark lashes. And she had to make herself pat the smiling dog’s damp head to keep herself from sighing loudly in contentment. She’d always been easily swayed by great eyes. And this man had sensational eyes. But being a connoisseur had always led her into heartache before.

      And a man like this one didn’t live in a tiny place like this alone, did he?

      ‘What brings someone like you to Inishmore House?’

      That was probably as close to ‘What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?’ that Keelin had heard in a while.

      Drop-dead gorgeous men who seemed to tug at every sense she possessed were a rare occurrence, so she didn’t really know how she was supposed to deal with that. But corny one-liner chat-up lines she could deal with.

      After all, she hadn’t come all this way to look for a new love interest, had she? No matter how sensational he was to look at. It would be the kind of complication she really didn’t need at this point in her life.

      Nope, she had bigger things to deal with. She really couldn’t allow herself to get so easily distracted.

      So she drew on her wealth of social experience and changed her tone, became a little less warm, more businesslike. Making it clear she had somewhere to be, something important to do. ‘I’m looking for someone, is it nearby?’

      ‘A short stretch of the legs from here.’

      Keelin stared up at him, unamused. ‘That’s very funny.’

      There was a sudden deep chuckle of laughter. And the deep, resonating

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