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by Pat McDermott

Sudden rainstorms are common in County Mayo, Ireland.
This one catches Andy and Suzanne as they stroll down Westport's Railway Walk.
They run into a nearby concrete shelter, where they get to know each other better.


Andy positioned himself at the shelter’s entrance to protect Suzanne from the deluge, though however he stood, the rain blew by him. In any case, she hardly required his protection. She stood at the back of the shelter, laughing and brushing the wet from her jacket.

Her laughter echoed inside the shelter like musical chimes. His ears inhaled the melodious sound and fired it straight to his soul. He wanted to hear it forever, and he wanted to be the one who made her laugh.

“A lashing like this would break the horns off the devil,” he said, “but it won’t last long. All right, Suze?”

“I’m soaked, but I’ll live.” Still laughing, she lowered her hood and tossed her long blond tresses. “My hair will be fine, thanks to my hood. I’ll have to do my makeup over, though.”

Amazed, he studied her dampened cheeks. “I’d never have guessed you wore makeup at all. You look no different without it. In fact, you look better with a fine coat of Irish rain on your face.”

Her eyebrows shot up. Owl-eyed, she stared at him. Had he said something wrong?

“Did I say something wrong?”

Thankfully, the laughter resumed. “Of course not. You have a knack for saying sweet things, and I’m unaccustomed to hearing compliments.” The laughter calmed to a dazzling smile. “Or do they call it blarney over here?”

Would she hit him if he kissed her?

Would she hate him if he didn’t?

On guard and torn, he gave himself a moment to think by raising his arm and wiping his face with his sleeve. “No blarney, Viking lady. Especially with you being…what was it you called it? Cautious.”

Her smile faded. She turned her head and looked away. He’d ruined the moment.

The rain stopped. Sunlight seeped into the shelter. A blessing on him and Suzanne? Time would tell. He’d only met her that morning. Who knew what would happen? He only knew he would kiss her again before she left for America.

“Thank you, Andy.”

He hadn’t misheard her. Though she’d spoken softly, her surprising words were as clear as the honk of a horn.

“For what? Respecting your wishes? We’d best be going, Suze.”

He stepped aside to let her pass. When she did, the scent of her rain-enhanced perfume compelled him to seize her arm. She spun so fast, her hair whipped her cheeks. Confusion tightened her face. Her riveting lips, shiny and pink, parted in pending question.

Caution can take itself to hell!
He swooped in and kissed her, locking his arms around her. He tasted rain, and salt, and a hint of something sweet. Adrift in the wonder of intimacy, he sipped at the flavors, sliding his lips over hers, nipping, retreating, invading.

Little by little, the outside world intruded, drawing him from the spell. Birds trilled. A damp breeze carried the salty scent of the harbor. Low tide, he thought incongruously as he released Suzanne.

She stood before him gasping for breath, eyes closed, shoulders heaving. What was he going to say to her? Nothing, not yet.

He dared to touch her cheek. She opened her eyes. Their hazel color sharpened to icy blue, a glacial glare that had no doubt shortened the life of many a man. The battle light of Viking legend? If so, his time on the planet had come to an end. He steeled himself for the death he deserved.

Yet she seemed to have forgotten him. Her gaze grew distant. Her arms dangled at her sides, fingers limp, hands shaking to rid them of…what? She looked down at herself as if she’d been pelted with cow shite. Had it been that bad? Unsure what to do, he waited.

She sputtered before she spoke. “Oh. Oh, Andy. I’m… Your jacket. Oh, I’m all wet.” A gorgeous shade of purple flooded her cheeks. “Oh no! Not wet like that! I didn’t mean… I meant, from your jacket. Not like… Oh no!” She licked her lips and gawked at him. “Oh, Andy. No one’s ever kissed me like that before.”

The tension seeped from his bones. Her anger, or whatever turmoil had beset her a moment ago, had apparently been directed at someone else.

“Maybe someday someone will kiss you like that again, and for the record, my jacket didn’t dampen you. You were caught in the downpour too, yeah?”

“Yeah. I guess.” She smiled at him. “I can’t say I’m sorry.” Less befuddled now, she checked her wristwatch. “Almost seven. We’ll be late for the pub.”

Back to business. Not that Andy had minded the break. “It’s not an appointment. We’ll get there when we get there. The music won’t start until ten or so. I’ll change, and we’ll head into town. We can stop by Gran’s on the way, if you’d like to freshen up.”

“Thanks. I think I’ll be fine, once my clothes dry.”

They stepped back onto the walking path and strolled in companionable silence until they reached the quay. Cars eased down the harbor road. Behind the seawall, the seabed lay exposed, the wet sand ridged like miniature mountain chains between the rocks and seaweed. Above them, blue skies routed the clouds.

Suzanne raised a hand to shield her eyes from the jubilant sun. “Croagh Patrick looks like a ghost.”

Andy glanced to his left. Haze still covered the mountain, though the breaking clouds made a dazzling show. “It does, but look. Do you see the rainbow?”

She gasped with delight. “Yes. It’s wonderful! By the way, nice ambush back there, Andy Connigan. I mean to have revenge for that.”

“I’ll look forward to it, Viking lady.” Arse over kettle in love for the first time in his life, he took her hand, turned left at the harbor, and led her to the Connigan family home.



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