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by Pat McDermott

Ireland's Prince Liam and his cousin Kevin
discuss girl trouble—and the Fairies—over a game of pool.


Liam shot, cracking the rack of balls with a break more potent than he’d planned. The balls careened all over the smooth green felt. Unbelievably, two of the striped balls sank into pockets at opposite ends of the table.

Acting as if he’d planned it that way, he glared at his cousin. “You knew I didn’t want to see her again.”

Kevin rubbed a square of blue chalk on the tip of his cue stick. “I figured you were all right with it when you said you’d stay here tonight. Anyway, I didn’t want to see Matti when you dragged me along on your first date with Janet. You owe me, Li. It’s only for one day. Matti won’t be in Ireland long, and Janet didn’t seem to mind.”

“You gave her no choice.” Liam paced around the table and lined up his next shot. “It doesn’t matter. She’ll be a good sport, and I’m sure she’ll want to escape from Deerfield House tomorrow, with the fairies doing their mumbo jumbo and such about the place.”

Kevin jerked his head up. “The what doing their what?”

Amused by his cousin’s befuddlement, Liam bent again and aimed. His gentle shot walked the cue ball toward a red-striped ball, resulting in an ineffective tap that nevertheless left Kevin few options.

Liam straightened up and leaned on his cue stick. “Didn’t I tell you? A leprechaun living in Phoenix Park wants to dig up a dead Viking buried near Deerfield House and plant him somewhere else. Janet and I met him and his friends, including Becula, while you and Matti were off having that fine American delicacy known as the hot dog. Your shot.”

“A leprechaun?” Kevin’s mouth opened and closed several times. “Becula?”

“Yes. You remember Becula. Under the castle? With the whole lot of Finvarra’s crew?”

“I remember.” Kevin swallowed, setting his Adam’s apple bouncing. “And a feckin’ dead Viking? I’d call it bolloxology if I hadn’t met the gougers myself.” Another swallow. “I’m not sure I want to go back to Deerfield House now.”

“Matti’s hero.” As soon as he’d said it, Liam’s pleasure at knocking Kevin off balance gave way to guilt. “They aren’t going to bother anyone, Kev. They only wanted Janet to ask her grandfather to keep the diggers away from his putting green until they do whatever it is they’re doing.”

“Who cares what they’re doing? I don’t.” Kevin’s balance seemed fine now, though he could mask his feelings as well as any Boru. “But what is it with Janet and the sídhe? No one hears from them for ages. Then this Yank comes over, and bam! What’s this, the third time? It’s like she’s settin’ the cats among the pigeons. Or the Dublin buses.”

“What the feck are you on about?”

“You know. You don’t see a bus for hours, then three of them come at the same time. Sorry, Li. I don’t suppose anyone could ever accuse you and Janet of having a normal, romantic date.”

“Are you going to shoot, or what?”

Kevin raised a hand in surrender. Blue eyes darting, he sized up the clustered balls and twirled his cue stick into position. In one neat swoop, he trained the stick on the cue ball. A sharp strike sent it caroming off the rail to smack the orange five ball, which in turn rolled neatly into a side pocket.

“How the feck did you do that?”

“Mathematical skill.” Kevin strode catlike to the other side of the table. His razor-sharp gaze remained on the balls, though what might have been sympathy softened his face for the briefest moment. He lined up another shot. “Janet doesn’t hate you, Li. She likes you fine. She doesn’t want a one-on-one boyfriend-girlfriend thing right now, is all.”

Which was pretty much what she’d told him months ago, when she’d called a halt to their dating, such as it was.

A match struck and quickly blown out.

The thought scorched his cheeks. Thankful that Kevin’s attention was on the game, he bolstered his pride with contrived annoyance. “Who died and made you the all-knowing wizard of feminine desiderata?”

“Don’t be flingin’ big words at me for speakin’ the truth. Matti told me. She feels the same way. All she wants is to have some fun, and I agree. Will you please come along? It’s only an outing to the zoo. We’ll convey the girls down the avenue. Enjoy the scenery.”

“If you ever take your eyes off Miss Matti.”

Kevin smiled. “She was more than a bit of all right the last time I saw her. She’s really lookin’ fine now, and she makes me laugh. Where’s the harm in that?”

Liam brushed the cube of chalk against the tip of his cue stick. “No harm. All right, we can’t have you pining away. We’ll go to the zoo.”

Another swoop. Kevin’s shot fell flat. As he stepped back to surrender the table to Liam, he asked about the Viking. “Is it a ghost or something?”

“Yes and no. It’s something called a draugr.”




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