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The line for Customs and Immigration snaked around the room and out the sliding glass doors into the hallway. Nan Galvin searched for a clock, not sure about the local time. Back home in Madison, Wisconsin, it was five in the morning. Here in Ireland, at Shannon Airport, it was "Eleven o'clock," she murmured, catching sight of a clock on the wall.
She smiled to herself. Though she'd planned hundreds of exciting trips in her head and flipped through travel books during her lunch hours, this was the first time she'd actually gotten on a plane and flown across an ocean. Everything around her seemed exotic, from the shape of the trash cans to the voice over the loudspeaker to the signs written in Gaelic.
"I'm in Ireland," she said, smiling to herself.
The line moved and she pulled her luggage along with her, getting ever closer to the row of desks and dour-faced immigration officials.
Her mother had visited Ireland, the summer after her college graduation. Twenty-seven years ago, Laura
Daley had stepped off a plane, just as Nan had just done, ready to begin a wonderful adventure in the land of her ancestors. Nan could only imagine the young woman her mother had been. Laura Daley Galvin had died of cancer when Nan was eight.
This trip was a way to discover the other side of her, she'd decided. After her mother's death, she'd cared for her father, keeping house, excelling in her schoolwork, living at home while she attended college and after she took her first job. As time went on, she'd become more like hima quiet homebody, satisfied to find adventure between the pages of a book rather than in the real world.
A year ago, she'd buried Jim Galvin beside her mother. But it was the discovery of a trunk full of her mother's memories that caused Nan to reevaluate the person she was. The contents provided a window into the woman Laura Daley Galvin had beenadventurous, curious, spontaneous. And a packet of letters revealed a lasting friendship with an Irish woman named Carey, a woman that Nan was determined to meet.
She'd decided to start saving for an adventure and, to her surprise, it had taken her only nine months to save enough for ten days in Ireland. What would she discover here? Would she have an adventure as her mother had? Was there anything left of Laura Daley inside of her?
Somewhere, outside the terminal, a driver was waiting for her, ready to whisk her away to the pretty little seaside town of Ballykirk in County Cork and the beautiful country cottage she'd rented over the internet. Nan glanced at the clock and winced. He'd been waiting for three hours. "Next!"
Nan stepped up to the desk and slapped down her passport and the immigration form she'd completed on the plane.
"Tiernan Galvin?" the agent said.
She never used her Irish given name, mostly because no one in Wisconsin could pronounce it properly. So, she'd adopted her father's nickname for herNan. "Yes," she said. "Tiernan Galvin."
"Are you here on business or pleasure?" the woman asked.
Nan couldn't help but smile. Just the sound of the woman's Irish accent fired her imagination. Her mother had loved this land so much that she'd given her only child a strange Irish name. Maybe she'd even walked through this very same gate at Immigration. "I'm here on vacation," she said. "Pleasure."
"Are you visiting anyone in particular?"
"No one. Well, actually, his name is " From her jacket pocket Nan pulled out the email she'd printed out and showed it to her. "His name is Riley Quinn. From Ballykirk. But I don't know him. I'm just staying in his family's house. Guesthouse. He's picking me up. At least he was supposed to three hours ago. The plane was late taking off and now this line has gone on forever. God, I hope he's still there."
The woman examined Nan's documents, then nodded.
"If you have anything to declare, go through the red channel. If not, the green channel," she said. "And welcome to the Republic of Ireland. Enjoy your holiday."
"Thanks," Nan said. "I will."
She followed the green signs and walked out into the baggage claim area. When she found the correct carousel, her luggage was already making its way around on the conveyor. She grabbed her bag and hauled it onto the floor at her feet. Hoisting her carry-on bag to her shoulder, Nan started toward the exit, her suitcase rolling along behind her.
She passed by a line of drivers holding cards with names on them and she searched for hers. When she didn't find it, Nan walked outside into the late-morning sun.
A row of cabs waited at the curb but there were no other cars or drivers with signs for arriving passengers. Nan cursed softly. What was she supposed to do now? Renting a car was ridiculously expensive and well outside her budget. She'd already paid to use the car provided with the guesthouse.
Though the drive to Ballykirk might be a wonderful adventure, Nan wasn't sure she could steer and read a map at the same time while driving on the wrong side of the road. There was adventure and then there was adventure. She dragged her luggage over to the first cab in line and leaned into the passenger side window. "How much to go to Ballykirk?"
The driver regarded her with a scowl. "It's a two-hour round trip. About a hundred and forty kilometers. That would be two-hundred thirty euros."
"I only have American dollars," she said. "I haven't converted my money yet."
"Oh, I don't take dollars," he said. "Don't really know the conversion rates. You could convert your money inside, but those money changers are all a pack of thieves."
Nan sighed. "How about a credit card?"
He shook his head. "That I won't, dearie. Check one of the other lads, they might. Try the bus. Or you can hire a car."
"All right," she said. "Thanks."
This wasn't exactly the way she'd pictured the start of her vacation. She'd planned so carefully, right down to the last dollar and the last minute. Not only had her plane been late taking off from Chicago, but she'd also nearly missed her connection in New York. Then they'd had to wait three hours until a storm system passed before leaving New York. The meals on the transatlantic flight were barely edible and she'd been stuck beside a crying child for the entire trip to Shannon. And now she was hungry and had a headache that made any more stress difficult. She had Riley Quinn's phone number. She'd call and find out where he was. But first she'd have to get some change for the pay phone.
"Money first," she murmured to herself.
"Do you have a light?"
Nan turned to find a man standing behind her, an unlit cigarette between his lips. Her breath caught and she stepped back, her gaze fixed on his handsome face. This was exactly how she'd imagined Irish men except for the cigarette, of course. He had shaggy dark hair and chiseled features and eyes that were so blue they were almost gray. The shadow of a week-old beard darkened his features, making him look a bit dangerous. "What?" she croaked.
"A light?" he repeated.
Faded jeans hugged his long legs, and a T-shirt and a leather jacket hid wide shoulders. Dangerous, she thought to herself. And wild. And slightly disreputable. Not the kind of man she was usually attracted to. So why had her breath suddenly left her body? "No," she murmured. "II don't smoke."
He groaned, shaking his head. "Oh, you're one of those."
He shook his head. "Americans. Now you're going to tell me all about the health hazards and how secondhand smoke affects everyone and how"
"No!" she interrupted, insulted by his assumption. This always happened to her. People assumed that as a librarian, she was fussy and prudish and hyperorganized. But this man didn't know she was a librarian and still he was judging her.
She was on vacation. No one knew her here. She could be whoever and whatever she wanted and she didn't want to be that person who shushed students at the library and told them they couldn't have sex in the stacks. She wanted to be worldly and adventurous and maybe even a bit alluring. "I just don't carry matches because I don't smoke. And I rarely have need to start a campfire or light some dynamite. And if you want to kill yourself, I'm not going to stand in your way."
He stared at her for a long moment, an odd look on his face, her attempt at humor falling flat. Then he chuckled. "Sorry. I'm a little touchy. I gave up the cigs a year ago but when I find myself getting irritated or tired, I go back to old habits." He broke the cigarette in half and tossed it to the curb.
"Isn't that littering?" she asked.
"I prefer to call it minding my health."
She stepped off the curb to pick up the discarded cigarette. But an instant later, he grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the way of a fast-approaching taxi. The taxi tires screeched and she screamed, slamming hard into his chest as she stumbled.
He held tight, pulling her away from the traffic, his body warm and hard with muscle. She drew a deep breath and the scent of his cologne teased at her nose. Though he was a complete stranger, she felt safe in his arms. In truth, she felt more than safe. She felt alive, every nerve in her body tingling with excitement.
"Careful now," he said, his voice soft, his concerned gaze scanning her face. "I can't be saving your life all the time. And it wouldn't do to get yourself killed your first day in Ireland."
Nan's heart fluttered. They were close enough to kiss. She could feel the warmth of his breath on her cheek. His gaze shifted and suddenly, she felt as if he could read her thoughts. Embarrassed, Nan pulled out of his embrace, straightening her jacket and trying to remain calm.
Though there'd been men in her life, she'd never felt such an immediate and intense reaction to any of them. But then, most of the men she dated didn't look like this onedrop-dead gorgeous. "Thank you," she said, forcing a smile.
"'Twas nothing any other Irishman wouldn't do for a beautiful lady," he teased, his brogue more exaggerated.
Nan glanced nervously down the line of cabs. Had he just called her beautiful? She'd always prided herself in an absolute objective assessment of her strengths and weaknesses, and beautiful was not a term she usually applied to her appearance. He was beautiful. She was ordinary.
"Are you looking to hire a cab?" he asked.
"Do you have a cab?" Maybe now that they'd struck up a conversation of sorts, he'd agree to take her to Ballykirk. "Is that taxi yours?" she said, pointing to a cab idling at the curb.
"No. The bloke who drives it just went inside to use the loo. I'm watching it for him, in exchange for that cig you made me toss." He paused. "Are you looking for a ride?"
Nan nodded. "Someone was supposed to meet me here, but I think he may have left. My plane was late."
"No," Nan said.
"No, just a ride."
"Well, then, my day has just taken a turn for the better. I'd be happy to give you a ride. I was supposed to pick up some old lady and drive her to Ballykirk, but she never showed."
Nan gasped. "That's where I want to go! What a coinci" She stopped, then regarded him suspiciously. "Are you Riley Quinn?"
The grin faded and he raked his hand through his hair. "Oh, shite," he muttered. "I've stuck my foot in it now. You'd be Nan Galvin?"
"I would be her," Nan said. He assumed she was an old woman? What had she ever said or done that had given him that impression? "You were supposed to wait at baggage claim with a sign."
He held out his hands and shrugged. "I figured I'd recognize you when you came out. But you're not old. I expected some lady with white hair and spectacles and sensible shoes."
"Why, because I'm a librarian? That's just silly stereotyping and I"
"No," he interrupted. "Well, partly. But there were clues. You sounded old."
"We've never spoken. We've only emailed. How could you possibly guess my age from a few emails?"
"I don't know. You write old. And you just seemed so."
"So prissy. Not in a bad way, mind you. Your spelling was perfect and your emails were so organized and precise."
"They were not!" In truth, they probably were. Nan prided herself on proper grammar and spelling. It was a professional responsibility that spilled into her personal life.
"You requested that I provide a premium brand of toilet tissue. And that the house be clean of all insects, spiders and bugs, living and dead. I'd call that finicky. Besides, you said you'd wanted to visit the land of your ancestors before you died, so I put two and two together and came up with.well, definitely not you."
Nan held fast to her temper. It wouldn't do to make this man angry now. He was her only mode of transportation. "You did say you'd meet me at baggage claim. And you weren't there. That's all I'm saying."
"I got tired of waiting. I've been standing around here for two feckin' hours waiting on you."
"I was supposed to arrive three hours ago."
"Well, I was running late. I've got things to do today and I'm wasting my time searching for an old lady who doesn't exist. I have to get back to the pub."
"I'm sorry to keep you from your late-morning drinking," she snapped. Yes, he was sexy, but he also could be a bit of an ass.
"My family owns a pub," Riley explained. "I work there, along with my brothers."
"And you run a guesthouse?"
"It doesn't take much running, but, yes, I do that, tooplus lots of other things. Like driving demanding tourists home from the airport." He shook his head. "You could have told me you were a fine bit of stuff."
Though she should have been insulted, Nan's irritation suddenly vanished and she smiled reluctantly. "'Stuff'? What do you mean by that?"