I slept for some time and woke slowly, listening to the clang of bells ringing in my head. As I looked upwards I realized I was lying beneath a grand relief of Christ, I gasped at the picturesque intimacy of the place, at the irresistible abundance of awe-inspiring beauty contained within. The stone walls and stained glass marvels ran floor to ceiling, meeting with peaked wooden beams high above eye level, causing me to roll onto my back to focus my direction heavenward. The bells chimed one last time. I didn’t recall the unfortunate ringing last time I went spiraling through time. Then again I also didn’t remember waking up naked in a river. I did my best to sit up feeling as though I was rising from quicksand. The past began to flood my brain and I was immediately thankful that I had not turned up in the water and that clothes were still firmly fastened to my body. Perhaps the ringing was not actually coming from my head, but from a bell tower somewhere above. I blinked and the realization of all that had happened and all that I needed to do fell on me like lead in my belly. I must have entered a cathedral through some sort of majestic portal, opened by Rochus. Why would he have sent me here? He said he was sending me home.
Attempting to get to my feet, a tingling sensation shot through my whole body. Viktor’s face flashed in my mind and my heart physically ached. Would I ever see him again? I had no idea how long I had lain unconscious on the floor, of what looked to be some sort of Celtic design? Quite a while judging from the numbness of my aching body. I felt like the sacrificial lamb laid at the alter. The unusual design on the floor niggled at the back of my mind -- something about it was important -- and I studied it trying to jog my poor confused memories. Embedded in the center of the floor was a large mosaic in stone, large enough for at least five adults to stand within it. It was a type of knot. Much of the ancient design had been covered by a worn out old rug and was difficult to see in its entirety. I went to stand in the central circle, at the heart of the design as this was the only area that was not covered.
I stood there, took a deep breath...and fell to my knees. A heated surge of energy flooded my body and pulled me to the ground with its force. I was dizzy for quite a while afterward, forced to sit down in the wooden pews that took up most of the room. When the dizziness wore off, I was consumed with utter fascination. I grasped the wood of the pew I was lying on and hauled myself upright. My hands looked fragile in the early morning light.
As I made my way around the room searching for clues as to where I was, I realized how tense I was, how tightly I had been gripping the edge of the pew. Calm yourself, I thought, and released my grasp noticing a large arched wooden door. I felt like a small crushed animal that had been run over and discarded on the side of the road. I opened the door and wandered out-side. The air was crisp but it felt nice and the sun was rising. Everything looked grey from the mist and green, very very green. This wasn’t the Caribbean and it most definitely wasn’t home, so where was I? I surveyed the grounds and turned to study the church. There was an unusual little round tower attached to it and I assumed that was, what housed the bell. It was set in idyllic woodland and surrounded by a dry moat, seemingly on a country estate. The architecture picturesque inside and out, appeared to be gothic or neo-gothic. Beautiful yet extremely eerie; it looked like it had been a place of religious worship for many years. I passed through a lynch gate into a small graveyard. I don’t think there could have been a more isolated fairytale setting to have woken in; one strange experience right into another.If I wasn’t alone and scared then I would have been awed.
Determined not to panic, I decided I would simply walk until I found a village or a house or any form of civilization; silently praying that there was in fact civilization and that I had returned to the correct time if not the correct place. My heart started to pick up speed again. The correct time. What if I was still in the 1800’s? Nothing I had seen thus far had given me any indication that I had in fact returned home.
I turned and headed back inside the mini cathedral to the spot I had woken, determined to find out where I was. Nothing. At the front of the altar, I noticed a trap door. I assumed it for the coffins to be lowered to the vaults below. Chills passed through me. I definitely wasn’t checking there. I saw a doorway off to the side and passed through it. Jackpot. The desk had papers and books on it as well as a nameplate. I became aware of my own breath… coming in… going out… reassuring and soothing. I had in fact returned to the correct year; the downside was that I was still in Europe, Ireland to be exact. How the hell had I arrived in Ireland? What sort of connection pulled me here or was it yet again just another hurdle that I had to jump? The relief had been great but the panic was inevitable, I gave in and the tears started to spill as I realized I had no identification, no money and I needed to travel half way around the world just to do it all again.
“Liam, are ye in there man? What's the story wit'ya? I’ve been waiting out-side for nearly a half hour.” The annoyance in his voice was audible.
“It isn’t Liam.” I responded opening the door to the office which I had been searching. He straightened up very slowly. I did not know then, why Rochus had felt it integral to my life that I be sent here, to this church, to this man: but I recognized the glory that awaited me. Our connection was instant and bound to be life-changing.
His hair was short but long enough so that you could tell he styled it back. The ends curled at his neck and sides; a coppery red with flecks of blonde that looked like spun gold in the sunlight. He had the strong muscular jaw of a Viking. With plump lips that curved in a way that was making me want to kiss them. His nose was one of the most attractive noses I had ever seen. Not that I take in a lot of noses but the centre came down in the shape of a v and his nostrils were large giving his whole face this masculine rough edge. His stubble was about a half an inch thick and was an assortment of silvery blonde, jet black and red making him look fierce and aloof. He stared at me momentarily silent and a tremor ran down my spine. Those eyes, his eyes were mesmerizing. Flecks of gold clung to the edges and danced in the centre making it appear as if his green eyes were on fire. Yes, I was definitely in the land of the Celts. I cleared my throat.
“Who is Liam?” His eyes bore into mine and he opened his mouth to speak.
“I can’t believe my eyes. Ye’r here.”
There was an awkward pause and then he shook his head, one stray red strand breaking free from its hold.
“I might be goin mad but I’m after dreamin of you last night. He blinked at me. “Where did you? …I mean, bollix, I sound like I’m losing my head. Bleedin dreams.” He burst out laughing. “So what were you askin’?”
I had been so busy watching his mouth ramble that I had forgot what I asked. He went on
“Liam, oh yes. Liam’s me brother, an’ I came round to pick him up for brunch.” He looked me over from head to toe and smiled. You could tell he was unaccustomed to being taken by surprise. “-And sure, I don’t have a clue what you’d be doing with the likes of me brother especially dressed like that. Is there a costume party going on or do you just really fancy ball gowns?”
I looked down quickly not sure what sort of tale to spin. “No.” I said. He charmingly held out his hand. “I apologize, I’m usually much more calm and polite, the names Cullen O’Kelley, Ms…? He paused and I realized he was waiting to hear my name.
“Sophia Marcil” I managed to stammer out before getting very dizzy and warm. I felt as though all color was draining from my face and my eyes began to flutter. The last thing I remembered was presumably hitting the floor. I opened my eyes to him buckling me into his Landrover. I must have looked panicked because he instantly backed away.
“I’m sorry. You fainted. I figured I’d take you to the hospital. Are you alright?”
“Ugh, yeah, I’m fine, maybe a little dizzy.”
“Are you here with anyone?”
“No. I’m sort of stranded here for the moment.”
“An do you have anywhere to go?”
“Umm,” I hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to say. “I need to call my family in Canada.”
“Would you be after going to town then? I need to help my ma with some stuff before brunch. You can ring whomever you want and there’s plenty of room and food.”
“Yes, please. I would really appreciate that.” I felt bad accepting but I knew I desperately needed help and I also wasn’t quite ready to say good-bye yet to Mr. O’Kelley. I liked the fact that he drove a Landrover and not some suped up Ferrari. I was tired of pompous and pretentious men. I had a feeling that Cullen was a lot like his Landover; rugged, down to earth, but with a masculine charm. We chatted for about thirty minutes about the countryside before my eyes grew heavy and I gave into sleep. I knew I should be scared and on edge to be at this man’s mercy but I felt relieved to be rescued, like some damsel in distress. We were strangers and I knew it was a cliché but it was as if I had known him forever.
When I opened my eyes again an hour later, we had arrived to a home in Dublin. I was surprised at how quaint it was despite being in the city.
“Where are we? Is this your parent’s home? Won’t they mind? I really don’t want to intrude.”
“You’re not intruding. I need to help them load some things up. Come on.”
The high ceilings offered space and half a dozen generous skylights gave light, rosy, hopeful beams from the radiating sun. Everything curved—the stairs, the doorways, and the windows. The wood was glossy, the glass sparkling, the furniture all clearly, carefully selected antiques.
I followed Cullen through the large open foyer but it suddenly felt airless and began to sway eerily, as if the floorboards were collapsing. Not again. I knew that my knees were beginning to give way, but I couldn't steady myself and I had to clutch the big beautiful spiral bannister in order to stay on my unsteady feet. My throat was desert dry, my heart pounding with angst as I stumbled but Cullen was quick to scoop me up.
“Let’s lie you down.” He carried me across the shining black and white floor and was halfway up a marble staircase past a gallery of oil painted nobles. I could feel his flexed muscles through his soccer jersey and once again I felt a little light headed.
“Ah, God, Cullen … Jesus, Mary and Joseph, What have you -?” A fine boned women with beautiful brown eyes and curly auburn colored hair cut her words off short as she came around the corner and saw us. I admit we must have been quite the sight. Cullen carrying me in a ball gown.
“Howya, Ma.” She just stood staring for a moment obviously trying to absorb the situation. “I’ve been going mental! Who’s this? I rang ya on your cell but you didn’t answer.”
“Everything’s grand, Mum …This is Sophia. Sit down, or get yourself a glass of brandy? I’ll be right back.” Mrs. O’Kelley ignored her son, following and gazing at us all bunny-teeth and big worried brown eyes.
“Hi Sophia, lovely to meet you. It’s nice to see I raised such a gallant fella but did something happen?” Cullen turned and smiled at his mother trying to put her at ease.
“D’you remember I was telling you last week, some couples after running marriage workshops with Liam on weekends so he needed pickin up at the church today.”
“Is Liam coming, then?”
“He amn’t and we have a guest. I found this lovely creature instead of Liam at the church.” He turned to continue on his way but his mother wasn’t done. I shifted wishing I could just get down and walk away.
“Good trade I’d say but again what’s with the garb and where is Liam?”
“Ma, don’t be rude. I have no bloody idea. But I’m going to kick him in the arse when I see him for making me get up so bloody early and drive two hours to get him.”
“Alright. Alright. Lay her down in the guestroom son, she looks like she could use a rest and then come and fill me in. I’m only your mother ya know.” We came at last to a walnut door in the private wing of the house. Her tastes were obviously as rich and stylish as her. The room was painted a deep brown and the bedspread was a mixed pattern of sand, chocolate and teal blue. The pillows were large and fluffy and very tempting but I realized I didn’t want to be alone.
“Do you think I could borrow a phone and a change of clothes? I need to make some arrangements.”
“To be sure, but I think you need to be after some rest fer now. Why don’t ye lay down and I’ll take ye round tomorrow. We’ll do and get everything ye need.”
“Okay. Thank you,” He turned to leave. “Umm, Cullen I’m sorry to bother you but could you help me undo these laces?” The way he looked back at me, as if he liked me, as if he found me attractive … that spelled danger given the mood I was in. I shook my head ruefully.
“I can’t reach them myself.” He stood up straighter, alert, watching me. It had been a little while since Cole and I last made love and even longer since I’d actually had butterflies in my stomach over a man. I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair. Perhaps thinking of Viktor for the last little while had stirred something in me. His fingers brushed my back as he helped to undo me. I could feel him, some kind of vibrant heat that had filled the room. He stopped and took a deep breath, inhaling my neck and I looked at him funny, chuckling a little.
“Ah, sorry,” he looked a little abashed.
“No. I’m sorry. It probably smells horrible.” I smiled self-consciously remembering how everyone had smelled in the Palace.”
“It smells delicious, lavender I think.” And he took another sniff. I picked a strand up, running it under my nose and thought of the attendants always primping and rubbing me down with herbal concoctions. He had a unique scent, too, a mixture of good soap, fresh air and a touch of something a bit musky. Smell had always been important to me. The right kind of cologne on a man always turned me on but this was even more intense. It was chemistry, pheromones.
I hadn’t been with anyone else besides Cole for the last four years and his idea of foreplay was slapping me on the behind and stoking his private parts. I got the feeling that being with Cullen would be a completely different scenario and I was tempted to find out.
Aroused by the way his fingers moved gently down my back, I pulled my arms out of the sleeves and let the gown fall to the hardwood floor. I heard the slightest gasp escape from his lips as if I had caught him off guard. Turning towards him, I watched him take a deep breath as his eyes rolled over me like butter. I stood before him vulnerable, in nothing but my stockings and I could see his pulse racing as he backed up and plopped down on the bed. Unsure of where these feelings were coming from I did my best to keep embarrassment from flooding my cheeks. I felt like I had been alone for so long and I just wanted to connect to someone, to him because there was something about him that set my soul on fire, just like his eyes.
“I feel like I know you.” I purred seductively.
“Ah, God, me too.” he said after a moment, still breathless. “Goodness darlin. You are grand.”
I strode over to him seductively luring him in and he took my hands and pulled me between his legs on the bed. I couldn’t believe what I was doing.
“Yez lovely Sophia. Ye look just as ye did in my dream.” When he spoke, my heart beat faster; his deep Irish lilt was romantic and made me feel light and airy. I had never been overly promiscuous or irresponsible. Perhaps a bit flirtatious and fun-loving but this just felt so right. He wove his fingers through mine and kissed me gently on the mouth and then took his time first kissing my ear and then working his way down my neck before flipping me onto the bed beside him and taking my breath away with the most passionate kiss I’d ever felt.
His kisses were slow and dreamy and his hands roamed in playful, gentle mesmerizing circles. So mesmerizing and soothing that I fell into a deep peaceful slumber leaving Cullen wanting more.
Cullen paused then looked at Sophia’s face. She had passed out in his arms as we went to undo her laces so he had gently laid her on the bed. She was no longer moving and he heard a deep breath escape from her lungs. Smiling he covered her up and moved to sit in the chair. He would definitely need to consider a cold shower if his blood pressure didn’t drop. She had curves that could give you vertigo, and she wore them as casually as she wore that dress. That dress, it had to be one of a kind. What was she doing wearing it? Wasn't it mad? He mused, that he'd been dreaming of her. Dublin was grey all over, and she was a dozen bright colours: an explosion of dark straight hair to her waist, eyes like chips of blue marbles held up to the light, red mouth and tan skin with gold freckles. He hadn’t meant to tell her, didn’t want to put her off but it just slipped out. His goddess Aeval, she surely was.
What else had there been in those dreams? He was sure he’d been having them since he was lad, but lately they’d gotten more vivid and more frequent. The thought of them still knocked the wind out of him. The flashing baubles, the dark castle shrouded in mist, the room of baroque panels and hidden cases? And there was a man with eyes as incensed as death, he thought, trying to clear the hazy details. He had wanted to punch that man in the gob. Those eyes had seemed so familiar. And the woman with the face of a goddess. His goddess but the hair had been different, her hair was another color and curly as a pig’s tail. The deep need to protect her from an impending violent death still resonated from the dream but he surely wouldn’t tell her that. Hadn’t she seemed scared enough fer one bloody day?
I woke to Cullen sitting across from me in an oversized chair. I looked down and saw that I was still dressed in that silly gown.What? How did I get dressed again?It must be cutting into my diaphragm. I had never before passed out in my life let alone three times. You could have cut the silence with a knife. I couldn’t believe I had fantasized that whole thing. His cool laid back smile immediately put me at ease.
“I’m glad to see yer wakin up. Here, Ma made you a cup of tea with honey in it to warm ye.”
“I must have passed out again.”
“That you did. I thought I’d stay put just to make sure you were okay.”
“Thank you,” I said reaching for the cup. “For everything, for all your kindness.” My cheeks went red as thoughts of my dream and his soft lips pressing against my neck wandered through my brain. It wasn’t real. I thought modestly pressing down the folds of my skirt while sitting up. The tea had cooled only slightly and was a great relief to my dry mouth and sore throat.
“I know you’re wondering who I am and I know I have a lot of explaining to do.” Cullen’s mother knocked and entered carrying a tray of delicious smelling food.
“Weal hallo there, I brought the two of you some biscuits and mushy peas; thought maybe you could both be using a little sustenance. I also brought you some clothes to throw on in case you wanna be a touch more comfortable.” She smiled and left the room with Cullen so I could get changed. She was perhaps a hundred pounds soaking wet and so the jeans and t-shirt she handed me were bound to be considerably tight. I shimmied into them and was surprised to see they fit all right apart from being a little snug in the hips and chest but it was definitely an improvement in comfort over the ball gown and I was sure Cullen most likely wouldn’t mind.
I opened the door and Cullen returned alone.
“Oh, Cullen,” she popped back inside. “Da and I are after leaving now fer Autie Shay’s birthday. Are you coming?”
“You can find your own way, then?”
“I can.” And with that she closed the door
“Your mother’s very lovely.” I paused playing with my peas.
“Yes and verra pushy.” He laughed “So you better eat whilst you’re talking”.
I took a deep breath and began “So I bet your wondering why I was in your brother’s church?” He furrowed his brows and looked at my chest.
“And why I’m wearing this gown?” He shook his head and smiled. I paused taking a bite of the biscuit. “The truth is I really don’t know why.”
I felt bad for lying to him but telling him,I just time travelled from the 18th century,felt like a tad bit too much.
“My name is Sophia Marcil and I’m from Ontario,” A look of puzzlement momentarily crossed his face. “You know. Canada.” He eased back in the chair crossing one leg atop his knee.
“I was on vacation in the Caribbean with my friends and I fell off a cliff or maybe I was pushed.” He was watching me in turn and I realized I was concerned about how he would take my story. It was bound to be odd, certainly.
“I don’t know details but anyway I woke up here like this and that’s all I remember.” I finished abruptly and swallowed hard, feeling that my lies were circling like vultures overhead.
“What are you thinking? You think I’m crazy?” I said feeling incredibly vulnerable.
“Nah,” Cullen said. “I already knew yer name. You told me earlier.” He paused for a moment before going on. “Although I don’t know where Ontario is and it is a verra queer name, to be sure?” I smiled at his words. “I did promise you a phone call though so if you want to give me the phone number I’ll help you ring your family.
The call with Gigi went well but I hung up the phone drying the tears from my eyes just as Cullen came back in the room. “You okay?”
“Yeah, that was my great grandmother. She was relieved to hear from me but she had a lot of questions.”
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but did I hear ya say, yous family’s been searching for ye for twelve days?”
“Yes, apparently it’s been twelve days since I fell into the ocean. Gigi was expecting me home two days ago so when I didn’t arrive she called Cole, um one of my friends and he told her I’d taken off.”
“That’s pretty heavy.”
“She’s going to wire me some cash and I guess I need to contact the embassy to see how I get back home.” The tears spilled down my cheeks and he reached toward me and gently took my hand.
“Don’t cry. Everything’s gonna be just fine. And you’re more than welcome to stay with us.”
“No, that’s very thoughtful but I certainly couldn’t impose. If you could take me to the embassy then I’d be grateful? I need to arrange a hotel and a credit card or something. I’m going to need clothes and food.”
“No problem. Consider it done.” Cullen said. “I’ll take you round to yous hotel room. The stores are plenty around there and you can surely charge the room. I’ll call round and take you to the embassy tomorrow during the day. Of course that’s on one condition.”
“What?” I asked shifting.
I heard him take a breath, like he was gearing up to say something. After a moment he let it out again.
“Just … Ah, I don’t know.” He moved, restlessly, on the chair. “That you’ll have a bite with me at the pub later once yer settled.”
“Deal.” I smiled.
I walked down the street shaking my head. Dublin. I knew Ireland famous for its ruined Norman and Anglo-Irish castles, small whitewashed thatched cottages and Georgian urban buildings. What I was realizing on my thirty minute walk from the Merrion Hotel to Mulligan’s was that there were more bars per capita here than any city in the world. The Irish, particularly the Dubliners, loved their pubs. I took the long way so I could check out the famed Grafton Street. It held the remnants of days long past, mixed with the new, the lively, the present day city, with its love of street performers, storytelling and dry stout.
There was unbelievable talent to be found with the turn of a corner, like the comedian across from the St. Stephen Green Entrance. The man was hilarious and I had stopped along with many others to enjoy his wit. Everywhere I turned there were people laughing, drinking themselves silly, admiring artists, flowers, musicians and mimes.
It was starting to get late and I felt as if someone was following me. Cullen had insisted on picking me up but I told him I wanted to do a little sightseeing on my own and that I would meet him there. He had reluctantly agreed because I’d given him no choice. I walked a couple more blocks and came to Mulligans of Poolbeg Street where I was to meet him.
One of the most famous pubs in Dublin, it had an old authentic wooden decor and the bar area seemed very relaxed and quiet. Ideal for a night cap and a chat. An older couple arm in arm, strolled leisurely towards me, leaning towards one another and it made me smile. I decided to take a look around to see if Cullen had arrived yet. There was an abundance of Victorian counter tops and mahogany, with plenty of confessional partitions, dark corners, and crooks ideal for intimacy, tittle-tattle and pints of creamy porter.
I slipped through the narrow door into the lounge, noticing a collection of old theatrical posters, evoking the great days of Theatre Royal, which was closed down and demolished in nineteen sixty two. The lounge looked the total opposite. It was filling up with a young crowd bopping to the latest music. A rowdy group of young tourists stood by, drinks in hand arguing over lyrics to a bawdy tune.
There was a dark haired man in the midst of the group staring at me but he didn’t look like he was with them. It was only for a second and I didn’t see his face and he was gone but he gave me the creeps. He had been staring as if he knew me and was tracking me.
“Hey there babe.” slurred one of the drunks as he cast an arm sloppily around her.
“Get off me.”
“I’d rather get on you.” Another slurred pawing at my top. I backed up trying to get away from him and tripped over someone’s purse landing me on my rump.
The voice that suddenly went through the crowd was deep and resound, and had a note of such unadulterated authority that everyone, including me, suddenly went still.
Cullen came striding into the motionless scene. From my position on the floor, he seemed extraordinarily tall, rough, broad shouldered and well-muscled beneath his casual knit striped rugby shirt and jeans. He caught hold of the kid who had touched me.
“What the feck is going on here buoys?”
“Just having a little fun.” The college kid sounded like a grade-schooler in trouble.
“Outta here now and learn some manners, ye arsehole.”
“Or what?” ventured one of the drunken college boys.
Cullen stared at him. That was it; he just stared.
The barman brought down a glass on the bar with a bang. “Hey! Yous lot! That’ll do. Settle down now or you’re barred.”
“Just asking,” the boy muttered. He turned and headed out of the lounge. “Come on guys, let’s get out of here.”
They all followed suit, heading towards the door. Cullen strode towards me, offering me his hand up. I stared into his face.
His complexion was a ruddy golden tan, his eyes a startling brilliant green. The hard chiseled featured clearly denoting a Viking background somewhere. He had slicked his wavy coppery hair back. It wasn’t so much that he was typically handsome but he was one of the most arresting men I’d ever met. He seemed to emit confidence and authority, and not just because of his height or build. There was a sleek agility about him and his features were hard, seeming to exude an essentially masculine sensuality mixed with austere self-possession.
His hands extended to me, large, rough and dry but powerful, I quickly discovered. But it wasn’t his strength, bringing me quickly to my feet that concerned me. It was his touch. Energy, almost like combustion or a current, streaked from him to me again while his eyes looked deep into me. He released me instantly, stepping back, surveying me with a sexual quality.
“Womanizing rascals,” he murmured. “Are you alright?”
“Um…fine,” I nodded. “Thanks to you. I guess I should have listened and allowed you to escort me from my hotel.”
“Aye, I hate to be right.” He cracked a slight smile, which transformed his face. He was suddenly striking again. Still hard, but striking.
“Now, how about that pint and then I thought we could head over to the Pearl Brasserie for a nice quiet dinner?”
“I’ve heard that place is nice but I’m not sure I really feel like being out anymore. Would you mind if we just grabbed room service back at my hotel?” A few minutes later they pulled up to the Merriott and Cullen parked in front. He got out and came around to open the door for me. The doorman greeted him by name.
“Do you bring all the ladies here or what?”
“I don’t.” he answered straight faced. A few minutes later, we sat in the sitting room of the hotel suite.
“So how did that doorman know you?”
“Da’s family owns a lot of places around town.”
“Really. I’d like to hear about that.”
He ordered up supper with a bottle of red while he sipped whisky from the minibar. I carried my glass of wine to the sofa and sat in the corner of it, taking my shoes off and tucking my feet beneath me.
For the next half an hour, he talked about his family, and his stories made it obvious how fond of them he was. His older brother was a priest, who had never married. His parents were very different but very much in love still. He was lounging on a club chair, his feet on the matching ottoman.
“How come I’m doing all the talking here? Tell me about the likes of you?”
“You know about me? You listened on my conversation remember?
“Bollix. I’m sorry about that. Didn’t mean to invade your privacy. I’m not in the habit of finding and bringing home strangers.” I laughed. “It’s alright. I guess that’s a good thing.”
“So, what’s the craic? Do you have a fella?”
“I did. Not anymore. Let’s just say he pushed me for the last time.”
“Sounds like a cad? But I can’t say I’m too cheesed off to hear that he’s blown it with the likes of you.” I smiled feeling the electricity crackle between us.
“I’m just thankful you found me and helped me out of that little situation at the bar earlier.”
“Course, what fella wouldna?” Plenty. I thought. For what seemed like an eternity he just sat there looking at me, then he stood up and came and sat next to me.
“I know you don’t really know me but if I touch you, are you going te push me away?” he asked. I took a quick breath and shook my head thinking of my imagined kiss earlier.
He looked at me for ten seconds then slid his fingers around the back of my head lacing them through my hair while drawing my mouth to his. Chills ran up my spine. His hands went to the buttons on my shirt. He undid them, and pushed his hands inside placing them on my breasts and brushing his knuckles over my bare tummy.” I shivered.
“Are you nervous?”
“Yes, I guess. I don’t know you.” I whispered.
“Do you want me to stop?”
He pushed my blouse past my shoulders. It slid down my arms and onto the carpeted floor. My bra was lacy and my breasts swelled above the cups. He reached around and unhooked it, then drawing my face into his hands.
“Tell me now if you wanna stop, God forgive me, cause I don’t think I’ll be able to, if we keep er up.”
“Please don’t stop.” My voice was tremulous and so were my lips as he touched them with his. His arousal was evident as he enfolded me, hugging me to him as we kissed. He undid my pants and slid them off of me. There wasn’t much to the back of my panties and I heard him grown as he ran his hands over my bottom. I reached for his jeans and unbuckled his belt. He raised himself up and slid his jeans off. He bent over me, sliding the panties down my legs. He slid one hand between my thighs, and with the other guided me to his penis.
“Ah, Jaysus.” I stroked the swollen head and he moaned and kissed me harder. He applied his thumb to me, causing my breath to catch as well and I arched my back. His hands felt hot as he squeezed my ass cheeks, securing his lower body as he sank into me.
The next day Cullen took me to the country to show me his house and we wound up spending a week in seclusion. Life was blissful; it was like we were in our own little fairytale world. I knew I needed to make arrangements to go home but part of me just wanted to escape reality for a little while longer.
His home looked like a whimsical Tudor style cottage with beautiful steps leading up to it surrounded by hedges and covered in moss. It had sectioned off gardens with ogham and alder trees, bells of Ireland, forget-me-nots, wisteria, iris, and lavender. It was asymmetrical, with façades of dark timbers and limestone. The roofs were steeply pitched and complex, with gable ends poking this way and that. The massive chimney crowned with chimney pots thrust skyward. There were bays of casement windows with diamond-paned leaded glass that jutted out from exterior walls, a lot like Gigi’s windows. The whole place reminded me of Snow White’s cottage. Not big and fancy like his mother’s but unique and charming. It definitely needed a women’s touch, but other than that it was clean and comfortable.
I looked around to see where Cullen had disappeared off to. At any other time, I would have enjoyed taking in these details but this time I was more interested in the owner than the well-appointed house. I wandered down the hall and into the living room where Cullen had some family photos and artwork on the wall. He had sunk into the sofa with a beer in hand.
“Who is this?” I asked. “Is this your ancestor, or do you enjoy hanging large portraits of men on your walls?” Cullen laughed.
“Weel I do enjoy a good manly portrait from time to time, but that would be my great great great grandfather.”
“I can see the resemblance. What is that?”
“That was his dagger. A family heirloom.”
The dagger was covered in a Celtic design and encrusted with jewels. It seemed oddly familiar to me. In this moment, my mind flashed with images of a dream I couldn’t quite comprehend and my attention was attracted by a play of light coming in through the half-opened window. The light hovered in the window, shifting and turning as it filtered through from the foliage above. The draperies, gently buffeted by the summer breeze, took on a life of their own.
“Cullen, you said that day when you found me that you dreamed of me?” he took a sip of his pint.
“I did.” He replied.
“What was the dream about?” I asked.
“Ah, I’ll be after forgettin the details now.” His eyebrows furrowed as he tried to remember.
“You were lyin in a stream behind Liam’s church and I found ya and carried ya away inside.”
I thought of that pattern on the cathedral floor and then I thought of his ancestor’s portrait. I stared at him, the shock of his words sinking in and he went a little red. “Ah, well, that’s loopers. It’s prolly just Arthur Guinness talking.”
There was a connection somewhere but my brain couldn’t make it out right now. Perhaps I had been meant to come here for some very important reason or perhaps I was just meant to meet this handsome Irishman. Maybe he was some distant relative of the Count’s.
The next day Gigi called to tell me she had to go into the hospital for a few days so they could run some tests. She knew I was planning to call her and she didn’t want me to worry when I didn’t get an answer.Right, like I wasn’t worried now.I loved Ireland but I knew the time had come to face reality. Gigi missed me and desperately wanted me to come home. I was very distraught to leave Cullen but I knew I had to do some research, if not for Sapphira then perhaps for myself.
Cullen decided to take me to one of his local haunts for drinks before dinner on our last night and introduced me to some of his friends or rather the Pub regulars who entertained me with stories. About an hour in, Cullen suddenly got up.
“Where are you going?” I turned to Cullen who already walking away, was leaving me with a table of strangers I’d just met.
“He’s just off to the loo. Don’t worry luv. You’ll be safe enough with us.” said Pete.
“Ya know,” said Bert Reid, “Cullen’s family quite rich. Their pictures are always in the Herald.”
“His family is quite well known in Dublin,” Big Pete Murphy said, shaking his head. “And that’s a fact. Supposed descendants of royalty, or some shite.”
“We like him anyway though,” said Bert. “Dacent man to have a few pints with.” They all laughed.
“And ya know his brother, he’s turned quite a leaf. A man of the cloth now, he is.” Pete said casually. “Amazing, considering his crazy mam and all. This silenced the table.
“What do you mean turned a leaf?” I asked.
“Well, ya could hear me story if there was a pint of Guinness in me hand,” said Pete, looking at his empty glass on the table. “Sure, a man can’t talk if his whistle is dried up?”
Apparently knowing the pulling power of Big Pete’s stories, the bartender had a pint in front of him in jig time. Pete took a swallow and smacked his lips. The others leaned forward as he began to speak, in a quiet voice.
“Mother Murphy knew him. Cullen’s brother. Used to help out with the local riff raff. A copper he was, who had a real bad attitude. Molly said he was a real bad kid.” And he took a long, slow swallow of Guinness and licked the foam lovingly off his lips.
“Ah, Jaysus, Pete, that’s a hard one to credit,” said Bert Reid. “How do you know he was bad? Molly’s crazier than you.” Pete leaned forward onto the table and looked around as they stretched in. “Cause Mother Murphy was there when he was questioned over that missing girl,” he said as he paused for another swallow, emptying the glass, which was replaced like magic by the bartender.
Just then Cullen returned from the washroom apparently sooner than Pete expected and everyone changed topics and pretended as though they’d never spoken of his family.Family.I thought again of my family and then the second lead weight hit my belly as I realized I would have to face Cole soon. Did he know Gigi had found me or did he believe me dead? I contemplated canceling my flight and staying and hiding out here but Rochus’ words haunted me.
The next day he drove me to the airport. I thought of asking him about his brother and his mother but decided against it. I’d be gone soon enough and it was really none of my business. We stood perfectly still for minutes embracing, awkwardly aware of the warmth of one another’s body. The atmosphere was completely filled with a charge of electricity so strong that you could practically see it. There was a rollercoaster in my tummy, the feeling of young love with the terror of the unknown.
“You promise to stay in touch?”
“I do,” He answered. “You promise to come back to me?”
“Yes, of course.” I smiled squeezing his hand.
“Soon.” He said and kissed me.