The Last Killiney, p.1J. Jay Kamp
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About the Author
The Last Killiney
Book One in The Ravenna Evans Series
By J. Jay Kamp
Copyright 2011 by J. Jay Kamp
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author. Your support of author’s rights is appreciated.
All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The Ravenna Evans Series:
The Last Killiney
The Bayman’s Bride
Disneyland, summer, 1977
People were staring at Paul Henley.
Where he stood sweating in the queue for the pirate ride, he could feel their conservative eyes taking in the cut of his leather trousers and his Cuban-heeled boots. He knew his hair was a mess. His compact, seventeen-year-old frame wasn’t tall enough to be menacing, but dressed all in black, sporting his favorite David Bowie badge, Paul could imagine how he looked to these folks—like a punk, a hooligan.
Get an eyeful, then, if you’ve a mind to. And just for a laugh, he turned and winked at the American couple two paces back. They wriggled appropriately. Paul smiled to himself. “Good,” he mused under his breath. After all, I’m not sweating in this leather coat fer nothin’.
It wasn’t long before the queue shuffled into a New Orleans-style mansion where, despite Paul’s resolve, he found himself grateful for the shade. The air smelled damp. It was cooler inside. A sandy isle complete with sea shells and treasure chest flanked the hand rail and, seeing it, he briefly entertained the notion of jumping into the lapping dark waters. California was great and all that, but the Anaheim heat was something Paul reckoned he could do without.
“Irish rain, that’s what I need,” he mumbled, glancing at the brick arch over their heads. “And a pint as well. That wouldn’t go amiss.”
“You like the rain?”
It was a feminine voice. Paul heard it clearly amidst the chattering all around him. He glanced back at the fellah in the Panama hat, the youngsters in the queue, the mothers and fathers, until finally his gaze rested on a diminutive girl. She looked roughly his age. She couldn’t have been an inch over five feet tall. Watching him with huge, brown eyes, she stood quietly only a few paces away. Despite her braids and denim skirt, Paul could see straight off she had pluck. She wasn’t keeping several yards back from him. In fact, she’d stepped closer.
“Why would you want a pint of rain?” she asked.
He thought of his wished-for Guinness and the weather to go with it. Wouldn’t have much kick, that rain, but I’d take it just the same. “Because I’m thirsty, that’s why,” he said, wiping his forehead.
Dark-haired, fair of skin, the girl studied him with fascination. Paul found himself slipping into charm-mode without even meaning to, his amiable manner disarming her stare. “You’ve never had Dublin rain, have you?” Raising a brow, he grinned at her impishly. “I’ll bet you don’t even know where Dublin is, yeah?”
“I do so.” She smiled, a dazzling sight that took him by surprise. “I’m fifteen, you know. I’m in high school and everything, just like you.”
The queue shuffled forward. Paul motioned for her to join him, curious now. “Is that right?”
“Do you want to come to my island with me? It rains all the time there. You’d like it a lot.”
Paul noticed how she stayed apart from the family behind her, didn’t belong to the teens ahead of them, either. When she reached the top of the queue and the attendant asked how many in her party, the girl held up just one finger. She’d have no friends climbing into the seat next to her. Pluck indeed. Here I’m fuedin’ with Trevor an’ Eamonn while she doesn’t even have the luxury of bleedin’ mates like mine.
“Make that two,” he told the attendant, and then, to the girl, “Your island? No, em…I don’t think your parents an’ that would appreciate having me around. But why don’t you tell me about it? You’ve an island all yer own?”
He followed her into the boat, and when her porcelain features lit up with joy, he knew what he’d started. ’Course she fancied him. Like Trevor’s sister back home, the girl thrilled to Paul’s every word. He didn’t mind. He loved an audience of any sort, ladies especially, and as the boat began to move, he indulged her with silliness designed to make her giggle. “So it’s a treasure island you’ve got, is it?” Tilting his head, he whispered low, “I suppose you’re a pirate’s woman, as well?”
Soon he was doing buccaneer impressions, pointing out drunken sailors on the wharf, even pushing her toward the dangling leg of a fierce-looking sea dog, all in an effort to hear her laugh.
Indeed, he was so successful that the girl completely forgot herself. Between pirate scenes, she explained it wasn’t all her island, although she and her parents were the only full-time residents. “Except for the birds,” she was quick to add. With its gently rolling fields, its high cliffs topped with wind-worn grass where puffins and cormorants made their homes, her Washington State island was perfect for all sorts of birds. Finches, pheasants—she described them in such detail that, picturing her driftwood fires and the winter storms battering her bedroom windows, Paul couldn’t help seeing his own house with its wide views of Killiney Bay.
“Sounds a lot like my country,” he told her. “Like Downpatrick in County Mayo, maybe, or the Cliffs of Moher.”
“You have puffins in Ireland?” she asked.
Paul nodded. “And choughs as well. But you don’t have any choughs in America?”
As if they were friends, that’s how he talked to her. After a while, he didn’t know if he were playing the game still, charming the girl for fun’s sake, or genuinely interested in what she had to say. There was something to her, he knew that much. As pretty as she was, she had her wits about her, more so than most Irish girls he’d met.
By the time they’d reached the pirate-besieged fort, he had his arm around her. Cannons were blasting, a sailing ship loomed above with surly-looking men waving their swords, but Paul wasn’t paying attention to them. All he could think of was the girl’s raven hair, brushing his hand so that he couldn’t help leaning closer to see if it smelled the way he thought it ought to, of salt water and sand, like his beach back home.
“You’ve lost it,” he muttered. With annoyance, he shook off the beginnings of a daze. What was the matter with him? Was he coming down with flu?
And yet with a certain fascination, he realized it: He’d been right. In that instant he’d leaned into her shoulder, he’d caught her fragrance of driftwood and salt sea, sweet as any perfume he’d known. Closing his eyes, he pictured himself o
Withdrawing his arm, Paul sat back. He forced himself to look at the bayou around him, the simulated fireflies and evening sky. Still the image lingered on: Swallowhill. His drawing room. The leaden light of a spring afternoon, rain driving hard at the Georgian windows…and this pretty girl.
Only she wasn’t a girl.
In this vision, where she stood near his hearth back home, she was definitely a woman—a slender, doe-eyed waif of a thing, but mature nonetheless, for how could Paul miss her generous hips, the peach-tinted rise of her womanly breasts? She was wearing a nightgown. Just barely. As if she’d donned it straight from the bath, the fabric was wet, slightly transparent. In the delusion, Paul stared, and with a sensation very much like a memory, he heard himself say, “You’ve been swimming in the ocean again, haven’t you?”
The woman didn’t answer. She went to the cupboard recessed in the paneling and took out a blanket, wrapped herself up. Her teeth were chattering. Her black hair dripped in a soft thudding cadence all along the Aubusson carpet, and in the dream, Paul followed her back to the hearth. Adore you, he thought. He took up a corner of the Irish linen and wiped at her lovely, heart-shaped face. “What did I tell you?” he asked her gently.
“That I’d drown out there?” Familiar voice, low-pitched and clear. “I’m a scuba diver, Paul,” she said in a whisper. She leaned seductively into his side, and he felt a sudden surge of arousal when the woman’s fingers slipped into his shirt, unbuttoning, searching, even as she purred, “I know what I’m doing, at least give me that.”
Startled by the image, by the tone of her words, he opened his eyes. They’d arrived back at the starting point of the ride, he and the winsome, dark-haired girl. Boats were unloading. A queue of people waited on shore, and as he gazed at the tourists, thoughtless, numb, he still felt the warmth of the woman’s touch, her whisper an angel’s breath at his ear, Love you, need you.
That was enough.
He pulled himself together in the moments that followed. When the boat came to a stop, he forced himself to look at the ride’s attendant instead of the girl. Eamonn an’ Trevor, you should be thinkin’ of them, yeah? Paul knew his row with the lads had been wrong, a selfish mistake, that they’d only been joking when they’d hidden his Bible in the ladies’ toilet. Now his mates were probably combing the city for him. More than likely Paul’s father had been called, a new return ticket issued and waiting at the airport counter.
He wondered what he’d say to his Da as the safety bar lifted, as the attendant motioned for Paul to exit.
Only then did he think of his petite companion, how her feelings might be hurt by his rushing off.
“Listen, I’ve gotta be somewhere,” he began. Turning to the girl, he didn’t dare touch her slender hand. “You’ve friends outside? There’s somebody waitin’ fer you out there as well?”
“My mother,” she said. “But I know she won’t mind if you eat lunch with us…if you want to, that is.”
Paul sighed. “Sweetheart, I can’t go. I’ve people lookin’ fer me right now. I have t’go meet them, and—”
“What about me? Will you meet me, too?” The girl’s mouth was determinedly set. Her coffee-dark eyes had hardened to coals. Waiting for his answer, staring him down, she looked for all the world like a woman—a gorgeous, adult woman, Paul thought nervously—perceptive and innocent, headstrong and shy, until he found himself slipping back into it again, that strange sense of knowing her beyond the confines of her teenage features.
“Will you?” she asked. “Will you eat lunch with me tomorrow in the bayou? At noon?”
He hesitated, glanced away toward the door. “’Course I will,” he whispered finally. “’Course I will.”
The Last Killiney by J. Jay Kamp / Romance & Love have rating 3.1 out of 5 / Based on34 votes