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Chapters 1-6

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Copyright

Copyright © 2023 by Brooke Gilbert

 

Cover Image License provided by Canva Pty Ltd. Cover design by Brooke Gilbert. Original Cover design copyright © 2023 by Brooke Gilbert. Edited by Caitlin Miller.

 

The following is a work of fiction. All people, places, names, events, and situations are a product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to a person, dead or living, is completely coincidental, and is not to be taken as reality.  

 

Library of Congress Control Number:  2023911009

 

First Edition

 

Paperback ISBN: 979-8-9872622-1-4

Amazon Paperback ISBN: 979-8-9872622-0-7

Amazon Hardback ISBN:  979-8-9872622-3-8

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, transmitted, or distributed in any form without the author’s written permission.

www.brookegilbertauthor.com

Dedication

For every woman who has ever felt the loss of a child or the opportunity to ever have one. 

 

And for Chad, you’re a “Free Bird” now. 

 

Also, to those whose chronic illness has affected their ability to do the things they love. May your dreams evolve with you so that you can pursue the ones that have always been waiting for you. 

 

As I have had the privilege to meet more chronic illness and mental health warriors on my writing journey, I have witnessed firsthand their strength and beauty. The way they embrace each other and uplift one another is a beautiful example for the world to see. They’re always celebrating differences while connecting over similar struggles. It is a wonderful community, and I thank you for accepting me into it. I finally feel at home. It is my wish that this story helps you believe that you can still pursue your dreams, whatever they might be, and wherever they may lead you. 

Epigraph

“Your feet will take you where your heart is.” -Irish Proverb

 

 

Content Caution

 

Hello Lovely Reader, 

 

First, I would like to thank you for picking up my novel. I know there are so many books out there for you to select from and the fact that you picked up mine means the world to me. You are the reason I keep writing. With that in mind, I wanted to make sure to take a moment with you to discuss the content of my novel. 

 

Nothing infuriates me more than novels without content warnings, so I am going to try my best to provide them here without giving away any spoilers! There are mild medical episodes that include descriptions of pain associated with esophageal Crohn’s, arthritis, migraines, and endometriosis. There are also discussions of infertility and suicidal thoughts in relation to endometriosis & Crohn’s. This disability representation is written by an author who also battles autoimmune and chronic health disorders herself. The journey I have begun with my own female health problems and my mother’s endometriosis was the inspiration for the main character to have this condition. 

 

This novel also features mental health episodes and will include anxiety and panic attacks. They will be fairly descriptive. Themes of forgiveness and loss are present throughout. 

 

Please be kind to yourself and if now isn’t a good time to read this novel, then I will definitely understand. Perhaps there will be a better time in the future. And if you would like modifications, there are chapters you could always skip, and I'd be happy to discuss those options with you. Or if you have questions and specific triggers in mind, know that my door is always open. I’m available through Instagram (@enchantingbrookevoiceover) and brookegilbertauthor@gmail.com

 

This is a clean novel. Descriptive kissing only. No cursing. Faith conversations included. 

 

I hope you enjoy your time in Ireland! Can’t wait to discuss this novel with you :)

 

Love, Brooke

Prologue - Darby

 

Luck had nothing to do with it. I may be Irish, but I still believe there was something else happening. But I didn’t start out believing that way. No, my heart started out much differently. It started as stony as those Irish cliffs that brought her to me.

Chapter 1 | Darby

 

The Cliffs of Moher were weeping with extra vengeance today, mocking the beautiful woman standing all alone on the edge. Teetering dangerously close to the rocky brink. So close that I was beginning to worry the steep chasm would reach up, consume, and swallow her whole.

From my vantage point, it looked as if that might not only be a real possibility but judging from the look in her sad eyes, a preferred choice. Her sorrowful eyes were going to haunt me from this day forward, no matter the outcome. 

 

As I stared mesmerized at the woman, another blasted tourist was rambling on in my ear. I swear these tourists were like herding cats. I didn’t get paid enough for this job. I honestly didn’t know how I even kept this job. My surly attitude and lackluster demeanor should have gotten me fired by now. Maybe it was because the owner had known me since I was a wee lad. Maybe it was because the tourists thought I was absolutely adorable. They seemed to think surliness was part of my “Irish charm,” which only aggravated me more. I can tell you quite frankly that there is nothing charming about me. Take away the Irish accent and you’re left with a cynical curmudgeon. But for some reason these ladies found it especially appealing. 

 

Right now, I just wanted them to leave me alone. I had been completely drawn into the world of this stranger. I needed to know what she was thinking. I’d give anything for a glimpse into the labyrinth of her mind . . .  just give me a tiny opening. A high window, a vent, even a crack in an old wall. Anything, I’d make it work. Believe me, it was unusual for me to be this interested in . . . well, anything. But from the moment I’d seen her, I’d been captivated and I’d steadily moved closer and closer to her.

 

An older woman was using her cane to tap on my stupid–cockeyed–leprechaun hat. Yes, provided by the company. No, I didn’t provide it myself. I wouldn’t even wear it for extra tips. And yes, that was something that my co-workers did. They had no dignity apparently. They were more than happy to lean into the Irish stereotype. I had standards. Seriously, when did this leprechaun thing get started? And when was it going to end? Has any tourist yet to see one of those ridiculous green buggers? I didn’t think so.  

 

Great, now they were tag teaming me. The lady’s friend was tugging on my obnoxiously bright green Irish tour guide shirt. Also provided. The leprechaun body was printed on the front of the shirt in all of its glorious form, forever commemorated in ink. The words “Ask me anything, I’m Irish your service” plastered on the back. No, I’m not making this up. I promise you, I couldn’t. Or at least I sure hope I couldn’t.  

 

But the harder the ladies tapped and tugged at my shirt–skillfully hanging on to their umbrellas at the same time–the firmer my eyes stayed fixed on the mysterious woman. She appeared to be inching her way to the edge. And my imagination amplified the heartache in her eyes. She had turned so that her sight line was devoid of people. She was completely alone now and I hated it. At least earlier, she had been turned enough for me to see the expressions on her face. But now–being unable to see her eyes–this was agony. 

 

What I wanted to know was why no one else seemed to notice her, why only I seemed to see her and sense her distress. And I wasn’t usually a particularly observant guy. As the women continued to chatter in my ear, the last thing that seemed of importance at this moment was answering questions about the height of the cliffs or some other query I had already answered a zillion times. Oh, how I hated this job. The feedback from the cursed employee evaluation survey was right in politely suggesting that I needed to work on my people skills. Well, now seemed as good a time as any to start.

 

I turned toward the group of ladies and quickly said, “Excuse me, ladies. I’m sorry, but there is some extremely important and urgent Irish tour guide business I must attend to. You all are the best of the group. I leave you in charge. It's a great responsibility, but I know you can handle it. I temporarily deputize you . . . Irish.” They beamed so brightly that you would have thought they had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Tourists, I thought sarcastically, you gotta love 'em.  

 

As I turned, I rolled my eyes in relief–glad they hadn’t sensed my sarcasm–and I started moving quickly toward her. I couldn’t stand not being near her any longer. And I couldn’t handle not knowing what had brought her so much heartbreak. 

 

Chapter 2 | Darby

 

 

Scurrying away from the women as quickly as I could–while I still could–I stared at the beautiful woman ahead of me with anticipation. There were fireflies lighting up my insides with every step. What was I planning to do? What was–

 

“Miss, the tour’s about to leave. I’d hate to see you left behind. This view is incredible, but it gets pretty cold here at night. Lonely too.” The words flew out of my mouth without any conscious recognition, just as my hand landed on her arm in the same unconscious fashion. I looked down in surprise when I saw it there. I yanked it back as if scolding myself for my inappropriate action. 

 

She turned with a startled abruptness that actually made me jump, but I was also caught off guard at how beautiful her hazel eyes and golden brown hair were up close. She had been so still before, as if completely lost in a trance. And not one caused by the mesmeric cliffs, either. I’d seen hundreds of tourists stare at these captivating cliffs, and her reaction was not the typical one I usually saw. There seemed to be something else that had enveloped her mind, putting her in a hypnotic state, one full of darkness. In some futile hope that I could block the darkness, I unfolded my umbrella and held it over her as she continued to stare at me with unsure and uncertain, hollow eyes. 

 

The rain stopped pelting her, and the umbrella offered some reprieve finally, but she seemed to prefer the rain hitting her skin since her brows knitted together. Not exactly the reaction I’d been expecting. Maybe she liked feeling something. Or maybe she didn’t have an umbrella over her head for the same reasons as me–she thought she deserved to be standing out in the rain, open to whatever punishment it had to offer. 

With a sudden gush, words escaped her mouth as if she hadn’t intended to speak either. “I’m not with your group. Sorry to waste your time. Thank you, though.” She began to turn back toward the cliffs, stepping even closer to the stony edge. 

 

And to my astonishment, I found myself grabbing her arm again. Personal space, Darby. Remember, that thing you never have to worry about invading. I found myself saying, “Well, all the tour companies know each other. The owner wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t help another tour’s guest. I’ll find you a ride to whatever village you’re staying in when we get back. I’d be happy to let you finish your tour with us.” I looked around. “It’s late in the day. I don’t think you’re going to be seeing many more tours coming through, and probably not one from the area where you’re staying.” I let my hand fall again, but much more slowly than it had found its way there. 

 

“No, I’m not with any group. Sorry.” This time she turned with a definite movement to signal the end of our conversation. 

 

As I continued to let the umbrella hover above her, I decided with the same precision and determination that it was indeed not over. 

 

“Well, I wouldn’t forgive myself if I left a gorgeous woman stranded alone in the pouring rain. I’d be a gobdaw for sure.” And the last thing I wanted to be in front of her was an idiot. Then I took a very large pause before speaking again. “Are you sure you aren’t part of one of the tours?” I asked, cocking my head, trying to put my best beguiling Irish charm on it. 

 

She slowly turned, like she was moving heavily through water. She had to be freezing, I couldn’t help but think. Who knew how long she’d been standing out here in the pouring rain. 

 

“Maybe.” Indecision seemed to mark every crevice of her beautiful face as happiness started to spread over mine. Something that those deep, darkened places within me weren’t accustomed to feeling anymore. 

 

I dared to venture, “Well, I’d feel very lucky if that was the case. And trust me, I don’t have much luck. That's just an Irish myth. I think you should definitely join our group.” Her eyes started to gain a little more light in them, so I boldly continued. “Well, meet your new tour guide. Lucky for me, they left you behind. I’m Darby, not to be confused with Darcy.” 

 

A smile crossed her face–a genuine one. As it spread, there was a heat that simultaneously grew in me at the same rate, feeding off her reactions at the same exponential speed. 

 

“Does that need clarifying?” She laughed, and it was a sweet, sultry sound that made my eyebrows raise. 

 

“Yes, it does. Do you know how close we are to the land of Austen? Doesn’t matter how many times I say it on the tour–the tourists are pretty insistent. One customer even complained to my boss, said that I was making fun of them and that Darby wasn’t a ‘real’ name. I finally just stopped correcting them. Apparently, an Irish Darcy is even rarer than catching a lucky leprechaun.” 

 

“Ok, I believe you, Darby,” she said, pronouncing my name slowly and accurately, finishing with a bite of her lower lip.  A nervous habit or something else? She had a little flourish of laughter in her tone as well. For a woman that had looked so lifeless a few moments ago, she sure had a wonderful palette of personality. I was already massively intrigued and completely captivated. 

 

I stood awkwardly, feeling like a fool, holding the umbrella as I waited impatiently for something more from her. At last, she offered, “I’m Eyre.” There must have been a confused look on my face because she quickly added, “With an ‘E.’” 

 

“Oh.” A laugh escaped me. Then it dawned on me as I said, “Seems like someone is playing a cruel joke on us. Some wicked literary forces are at work. Have you made the literary forces mad lately, Eyre?” 

 

Now there was a smile creeping on her face that I loved to see. She also seemed to have warmed up a bit after the respite from the pelting rain. 

 

“Well, Darby isn’t Darcy, so I don’t think that’s the case. Doesn’t seem like we have anything to worry about. If I were named Elizabeth, you should probably just walk away.” Another hesitant soft, lyrical laugh escaped her. And my lip couldn’t help but quirk upward as I listened to the sound of her melodious laughter. How were those eyes even more beautiful up close? And the very last thing I wanted to do was walk away. I hadn’t felt this way in a very long time. I felt a little spark of life–of fight–flame inside myself. 

 

“The whole village calls me Darcy, on occasion, just to slag me—tease me,” I said, feeling the need to explain. “Can’t really stop them. Tourists are always getting my name confused so it’s just stuck. They must really think it’s funny.  Plus, I’m like the least romantic person ever. I’m the antithesis of Darcy. So they think that’s hilarious. That ‘b’ really makes all the difference.”

 

“I don’t know, maybe they just haven’t gotten to know you well enough yet,” she replied.

 

 

Chapter 3 | Eyre

 

He kept eyeing me like I was going to change my mind and head straight off the cliff like a character from a Looney Tunes cartoon or whatever the equivalent was here. But he seemed to be watching me because he cared–not out of some duty, pity, or morbid curiosity. More than that, it seemed like he genuinely wanted me to be a part of this very eclectic group of people. Well, actually, a group of women. Okay, really just older ladies who were all staring at him and hanging onto his every flawlessly accented word. I guess they sure knew a fine Irish specimen when they saw it. And they weren’t just hanging onto his words either, they were physically hanging on to him as well. It was like he was an attractive adult Irish jungle gym.

 

After we’d made our way slowly back to rejoin the tour, in between bouts of silence and small talk, I’d gotten to witness for myself how “hands on” his tour really could be. This was definitely a tactile group of ladies. I wanted to laugh out loud every time they touched the ridiculous leprechaun on his shirt or the absurd hat on his head (that trick was just for the ones that hadn’t shrunk yet and could still reach it). It was seriously like a Golden Girls convention had come to town and in true Sophia Petrillo style, these women weren’t holding back. As if they were channeling Betty White, none of them had forgotten their be-dazzlers or their tracksuits. I was starting to get a little bit of amusement from my Ireland trip, especially from their comical antics. I could even feel a hint of a smile trying to form on my face. 

 

I was beginning to wonder how all these older women had ended up on Darby’s tour, but then again, maybe the tour company was just insanely smart. If I had a tour company, I’d definitely put all the older ladies with Darby. Although, I was beginning to think that was a bit of a gamble. He didn’t seem like he had a very long fuse for this sort of thing. I mean, I think the apparel alone was perhaps pushing things a little bit too far. He appeared to be somewhat cynical and a little sarcastic from just the few sentiments we’d exchanged. I thought the tour company was very brave but also a little stupid to be rolling the dice with a tour group stacked with this many older ladies. He looked like the overwhelmed dad who had one too many kids tugging on his arm. An inappropriate giggle did actually escape me at that point. As hard as I'd tried, I couldn’t contain it.

 

Darby was already looking at me, but now his eyes widened. He had been looking at me with sheer humor–being a really good sport–but I think the giggle may have sent him over the edge. 

 

“Alright, ladies,” he said. “That was the last question for the day.” 

 

“Aww.” A unison of sorrowful protests broke out and my heart fell a little, seeing the disappointed looks on their faces. 

 

“Darcy, it feels like we just got here. Time moves so quickly with you. Don’t you know how precious time is for an old woman that doesn’t have that much left?” said one of the youngest looking ones in the bunch. 

 

His eyebrows rocketed upward as he cast them in my direction. The giggle fit only grew and was now becoming pretty uncontrollable. 

 

The group of women shot me angry looks as my uncontrollable laughter cut through the silence. It was like a rabid pack of seagulls all turning their heads at once, zeroing in on their target. I had to bite my lip so hard I thought I was going to draw blood. But it didn’t help. My muffled laughter continued in a weird heaving sound. It was so much worse. I guess the stress that had built up inside of me had now decided to expel itself as inappropriate laughter and it wasn’t helping the situation.

 

The one eyebrow he pointed at me and his lopsided upward curved lip had a sexy aura to it. He was mostly intrigued and amused. Challenging me to make my next move and tangle with his flock. 

 

“I just joined the tour so I missed everything. I didn’t get to hear anything about this beautiful place.” I replaced the laughter with a pathetic pout, but it did little to hide my amusement. 

 

Darby’s face fell into a cold, stony stare. A mouth click told me I was in for it, and gone was that glorious, sexy expression. Although this fierce stare was still pretty attractive. Now all the gulls' heads swiveled back towards him with big grins plastered on their faces.

 

He cleared his throat. “Well, we wouldn’t want you to miss out on anything, now would we?” The staring match between us hadn’t broken, and I didn’t think a winner was going to be able to be declared. 

 

“No,” a high-pitched chorus chimed in. 

 

He called out to the bus driver, who was not dressed in the company uniform. Probably a good call. He was more of a “rough and tough” kind of man. I would probably fear for my safety if I handed him a shirt with a caricature of a leprechaun on it. The all-black look suited him much better. 

 

“Oye, Shamus. Will you take the ladies back to the tour office? Please take good care of them. They’re all precious treasures. I have some extremely important guide business that popped up here. It’s pretty urgent.” 

 

Shamus just nodded and grunted his response. 

 

The death glares came at me like dominoes and when the final one fell, I wanted to find a hole to bury myself in. 

 

I pretended like I didn’t realize what was happening and proceeded with the ladies back to the large industrial white and green striped shamrock bus that looked way too large and out of place in the bucolic Irish countryside. 

 

Darby took a few very long strides toward me and grabbed my arm. “Oh no, ya don’t.” 

 

I looked up at him with an alarmed hesitancy. “I thought the whole point of me joining the tour was to be able to get a ride back to a village. How am I supposed to do that if the bus is leaving us?” I asked with incredulity. 

 

“I have a cell phone. You brought this upon yourself.” He leaned down and whispered. “Just wave at the ladies nicely. They can—and do—bite.” 

 

I watched as the women reluctantly loaded onto the bus and drove away. Their crestfallen faces looked at Darby for as long as possible while they sailed past. 

 

“That wasn’t cute, ya know.” He turned to look at me as soon as they were out of sight. “Do you really want a tour of this place? Because from what I saw, it seemed you’d had enough of it. I’ve got something much better in mind.”

 

“Better than the Cliffs of Moher?” I looked at him skeptically. 

 

“Yeah, walk with me. Just be happy it stopped lashing.” He looked up at the sky, and it was only then I realized the rain had stopped. “Come on then, better get a move on if we’re gonna get back to the village before dark.”

 

Chapter 4 | Eyre

 

“You can’t be serious. I haven’t seen any towns close to here. Why did you send the bus away?” I asked in irritation.

 

“First lesson in Ireland.” He looked at me pointedly. “Never anger an Irishman. We do have tempers. That’s not a rumor like the leprechauns. Second lesson in Ireland: there’s not anywhere bad for walking in this countryside, especially if it gets you away from a busload of tourists.” 

 

“Wow, you really do hate your job, don’t you?” I asked as he removed his hat and tossed it over a crumbling stone wall on the side of the road.

 

“That’s littering, you know.”

 

“No, it’s not. Some child will think it’s a pot of gold. I’m making their day,” he said flippantly. 

 

“Isn’t that your uniform?”

 

“Well, unfortunately, I happened to have lost it rescuing a damsel in distress,” he mused. 

 

“Yes, somehow I don’t think anyone is going to believe that,” I said, looking at him skeptically. 

 

“Watch it, or I’ll take more of it off, and then they won’t let us into any of the pubs,” he said with mock seriousness. 

 

“As long as you don’t remove the shirt. We wouldn't want you to lose your glorious leprechaun physique. However will you attract the ladies?” My sarcastic tone bit more than usual. “You’ll have to rely on wit and charm alone. And that just won’t do.” 

 

A silence stretched on before us like an endless desert. Not a single hint of water in sight. Finally, he cleared his throat. “Ahem. Ya gonna tell me where you’re staying, or are we just gonna walk in silence like a pair of dopes?” 

 

“I don’t have a place,” I said quietly. Darby looked over his well-defined shoulder out to the cliffs. At least the rain had stopped before he’d given Shamus his marching orders. At least, I hoped he had known the bad weather was going to continue to hold off when he sent the bus away. As he looked out upon the cliffs, they seemed just as mysterious and brooding as he did. The mist that was rising up to meet them was wispy and ethereal in an enigmatic way. 

 

Darby began to sort through his thoughts. “Ok, so let me get this straight. You came all the way here without a place to stay—without any luggage, I presume—and what, just to look at the cliffs, and leave?” 

 

I was most certainly not telling him why I had gotten on an airplane . . .  or what had led me to those cliffs. Truthfully, I’d chosen the first flight out of Nashville that looked appealing to me. I felt like John Wayne in The Quiet Man who fled to Ireland to forget his past in America. At least I'd had a lot of time on the plane to Google tourist sights. And as soon as I got here, the cliffs spoke to me. They had beckoned me closer and closer to their edge. Absolutely none of these events were going to be shared with this sarcastic, cynical Irishman–certainly not the one who was now having me walk home. When there wasn’t even a home to walk to. 

 

“I wanted to be spontaneous,” I managed.  

 

“You don’t look like the spontaneous type. You look more like the type A perfectionist who plans every moment with a Google calendar and a backup paper planner.”

 

“You know this how?” I asked, offended. 

 

“Oye, come on. I give tours for a living. I can spot types.” 

 

“Well that certainly diminishes a person, don’t you think? Putting people into types and categories, Mr. Leprechaun,” I bantered back. 

 

Fire sparked in those handsome, mossy green eyes as he retorted back to me, “You’re about to get a really good view of the countryside as you walk through it alone. Now, where do you want to go?” His voice had started to rise, but there was still an edge of compassion in it. He hadn’t completely given up on me and he still seemed intrigued by my situation. 

 

I couldn’t keep the exhaustion out of my tone. “Just take me somewhere, please. The closest place where you think I can find a decent room. This trip was such a mistake. I shouldn’t have taken the first flight that looked good to me.” 

 

He looked at me with continued amusement. “Well, that’s a start.”

 

“What?” I said in disbelief.

 

“To you actually saying something that’s real and honest . . . From here, the walk is about an hour and twenty minutes to Doolin. That’s where I’m from, and I’ll help you find a place to stay. Liscannor is the closest village, but I can keep an eye on you at Doolin and you’ll have a better chance at finding lodging. But it’s gonna cost ya. Toll is at least some friendly conversation for the rest of the way.” He abruptly started walking down the road. 

 

My mouth hung open like a rusty gate that wouldn’t latch. 

 

“Ya coming?” he called as he continued down the winding road. I scurried up to him so as not to be left behind by my most attractive but infuriating guide.

 

Chapter 5 | Eyre

 

 

“Are you actually capable of friendly conversation?” I asked, as I hurried up to him. Poking the grumpy leprechaun may not have been my smartest idea yet, but I couldn’t help it. There was just something about him. He was an enigma that I was hoping to unwrap, and it seemed the more I poked him, the better chance I had of unraveling that handsome wrapping. I don’t know if it was his surly, sarcastic attitude mixed with my feeling that there might be a soft heart hidden away in him, or if it was something else entirely, but I was finding myself drawn to him like a moth to a bonfire. And I’d seen way too many of them “dive bomb” right into the flames. It was a glorious exit out of this world and made quite the impression, but it wasn’t really how I wanted to go. A part of me felt like getting involved with him would be dangerous, not that I thought he’d ever open up to me enough to get to that point. I wasn’t going to be able to crack through his bad boy’s apathetic exterior, and I was already too tired to try. So why not have some fun? 

 

Darby heaved a sigh of exasperation. “Really? Didn’t I just get done telling ya, like a minute ago, that you were gonna be walking home alone? Do you ever listen? I think I’m being pretty generous, taking a complete stranger to my hometown.” 

 

“Well, generous would have been kindly escorting me onto the warm bus with the sweet old ladies,” I scoffed. 

 

“Ha, you need a new definition of sweet,” he said with an eye roll. 

 

I glanced over my shoulder at the rolling hills of the countryside that created a sea of pastoral beauty. I wanted to swim in the essence they created of a simpler life. I could get lost in their shadowy blanket of simplicity. One where mother nature created the timetables, instead of our artificial fast-paced, media-focused society. It was like my own version of Leap Year sprawled out before me. As I absorbed the lush greens and idyllic nature unfolding before my eyes, I instinctively knew Ireland would be good for a wounded soul like mine in ways no other place could be.

 

I let the calm soak through me before I turned to glance back at Darby. “Those ladies didn’t seem too bad to me; that is, until their near geriatric revolt when I was about to become their new Marie Antoinette.”

 

That finally received a laugh. Good. A chink in that cynical coating. I could handle that. I liked a man that laughed at my jokes. I hadn’t had one that laughed at mine in a while. The one I left behind hadn’t laughed at mine in quite some time. And this Irishman’s laugh was glorious. I promise it was like the sun appeared upon hearing the first notes of his laughter, as if I could actually see the sun’s rays shining through the dreary weather. The overcast skies and remnants of rain were brightening in its wake. The depth of color made my bones warm. Their deep aching was actually ceasing for the first time in what seemed like forever. 

 

I continued speaking as I looked at the puzzle beside me. “So you don’t like your job, I take it? Not a fan of all the attention? Here I had you pegged as meeting your wife on one of these tours and then becoming happily ever after married. You do seem to do so well with a certain age group of ladies. You mean you don’t knit all weekend long to provide clothing for the whole entire village? And then go out together with your wife, clad in your matching hand-knit sweaters, to distribute your knitted apparel among the people?” I was joking, but secretly I would have loved to have that kind of bond in my life.

 

“Ahmm.” He cleared his throat again as if I had managed to physically irritate it. A little twitch accompanied the sound, something that I hadn’t noticed earlier but now I thoroughly enjoyed. Oh, this was delicious. Yes, I was going to quite enjoy myself. We were getting along in Ireland about as well as that bantering couple in Laws of Attraction. As long as I didn’t come back accidentally married like them . . . Darby penetrated my thoughts. “No, I know you’ll find this extremely hard to believe, but I’m single. And I don’t like dating.” 

 

“What?” I said in mocked surprise. “You’re not a romantic?” I stopped in my tracks, feigning total disbelief. 

 

He reached out and literally grabbed my arm, yanking me along. “I’m beginning to think I should have left you at those cliffs.” But there was a smile on his lips that told me otherwise. He continued, “Yeah, no . . . ok, no surprise, I’m not a romantic. But within two minutes of meeting me, you don’t have me all figured out.” 

 

I let out peals of laughter that kinda sounded devious but I was actually thoroughly amused. “Oh, ho ho, but I think I do. Let me see . . . You can stop me any time I go too far off the mark.” He looked at me with raised eyebrows. I took his expression as a challenge to proceed. “Let’s see . . .

You’re completely cynical. Not only about love but pretty much in regard to your whole worldview. You build on that cynicism and turn it into sarcasm, so you have a nice little protective shell. And that coating doesn’t allow any romance in your life, which you like–actually prefer. But I’m guessing that only makes you more attractive to the ladies, even though you say you don’t have a romantic bone in your body.” 

 

He looked at me as if he couldn’t believe I was speaking to him in this way. Part of me couldn’t believe it either. Never in my life had I been so bold, so brutally honest, with a stranger. He snorted out a sound that I don’t think I’d ever heard before, his tall frame gravitating closer toward me. I paused for effect. “That about covers it, except–” 

 

“Except?” There was a glimmer of hope in his eyes. Yes, it definitely looked like hope. 

 

“Except there’s so much more to you. Maybe you should consider actually letting someone–at least one person see. You’ve proven that today. And

I’m not buying any of the rest of the stuff I just said about you because . . . well . . . I think it’s all a show.”

 

Darby looked at me sternly. “Just because I was intrigued by you doesn’t mean there’s more to me.” 

 

I looked at him. His eyes echoed the colors of the enchanting pastureland. Their green hues were almost too beautiful to be real. And looking into those greens, I could tell he didn’t believe what he had just said for a minute. In fact, I don’t think he believed in the persona he projected at all.

 

“You wouldn’t let those older women have so much fun at your expense if you didn’t have such a good heart. You can’t hide something like that, hard as you may try. Your heart has no choice but to show itself–expose itself. You can try running, disguising, distracting, or even burying it, but that will never work,” I said with precision. 

 

“I think it’s just part of my job,” he said curtly. Then with a stare that bore deeply into me, to a place that I thought had died, he said, “My turn.” His eyebrows raised wickedly. 

 

“What?” I questioned, a little afraid to ask. 

 

“What, you just thought you could say whatever and an Irishman wasn’t going to have a rebuttal? I don’t know how they do it over where you’re from, but men and women are equal here. My turn.” 

 

I heaved a gasp of disbelief, but I was secretly excited by his refreshing response. “Please, equalize me.” I waved my hand out before me in a “be my guest” gesture. 

 

“Oh, I thought you’d never ask.” The look from him woke up feelings inside of me that I thought had vanished. A feeling of being desired, something that had been lost some time ago and I’d come to accept was my fate to live without. A feeling that I believed I was no longer going to possess or be capable of inspiring. Sparks shot off inside me as these feelings were resurrected. And my mouth ran dry as I wasn’t sure what to do with these unexpected gifts. Once you resign yourself to the fact that you will be without something and make your peace with that fact, it’s kind of difficult when it’s just placed at your feet so unexpectedly.

 

I was awakened from the bubble of my thoughts with his words. “I didn’t think you’d be so eager. I misjudged you.” His lips quirked upward in the most adorable way. More stone was being chiseled away from his exterior. I could hear the imaginary rubble hitting the ground around my feet. “Well, you didn’t deny the perfectionist personality–never letting your britches fly free–so I’m gonna gloss over that bit.” 

 

“How kind,” I scoffed. 

 

“But the perfectionist personality runs deeper than that. You have to be in control of everything, even our conversation. I’m guessing those two things have kept you pretty single, as well. So why in the world would you jump on a plane without a plan? You have a lot of heart. I can see that already, but maybe too much. I think you feel everything and you can’t rein it in. That’s a trait that spells disaster when it comes to love. Yet, you’re not irrational, so I don’t believe you got on that plane because of a man. It wasn’t a breakup. No, it had to be something else . . . something that destroyed all the structure in your life and took every last ounce of control away from you.” He looked at me to assess the impact of his words–to scale the damage done–in order to help him with his evaluation of me. 

 

“Correct. All correct.” I gulped back my emotions. I did feel it all and my heart was never going to learn to contain itself. 

 

“That’s it? You’re not going to tell me what happened?”

 

“Would you?” I asked incredulously.

 

“Probably not.” He smiled, relenting.

Chapter 6 | Eyre

After a journey that involved way more walking than I thought possible, I finally started to make out some other colors in the sea of Irish greenery. As we strolled down the hill, there were suddenly bright splashes of color that invaded my field of vision and seemed to clash with the natural hues of the Irish landscape. Even though the colors of the village shops presented quite a jarring contrast to the natural greenery of the Irish countryside, their happy shades were a welcome sight to my weary eyes. It was as if I could hear Irish fiddles welcoming me, a rendition of Danny Boy playing in my mind. The village was a beacon, signifying that rest was near. This safe haven came just in time since my bones were aching like never before, and that was truly saying something. The combination of the plane ride, my emotional visit to this country, and now the very long walk with an infuriating stranger left my body exhausted and screaming. My muscles and joints howled at me, and the words they shouted were not family-friendly.

As we neared the village, the outline of cottages with thatched roofs came more clearly into view. My new craving for the Irish world urged me to focus my attention on this spot so as to forever ingrain it in my memory. Doolin was reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film. That vibrant Grand Budapest Hotel pink color caught my eye immediately as we started to walk toward a row of colorful shops. This must be their main street. Each building displayed a new vivid color that my eyes hungered to see. 

I looked at Darby, expecting him to say something. 

“What?” he said, looking at me. “I got you this far. You seriously need me to hold your hand the rest of the way?” 

I looked at him with my mouth slightly open, dropping even further in his silence. 

His next comment unnerved me even more. “Really, how were you going to make it in a foreign country?” My eyes widened in response, and then he laughed. “Alright, alright. I wasn’t ever gonna just leave you. Calm down. Hold onto your knickers.” 

He took my hand for the first time, and his touch caught me completely by surprise, especially after the words he had just uttered. A warmth melted over me. Darby used his touch to direct me down the road toward the stone bridge. And while his hand was calloused and rough, his touch was surprisingly gentle and warm. Not what I had expected, but it seemed to echo his personality. My vision wandered over the peaceful stream flowing under the bridge that led to a vast expanse of open water in the distance. It was absolutely glorious. I couldn’t decide what to explore with my eyes first. Darby seemed to notice the change in my mood. He tightened his hold on my hand in appreciation of my response.  

 

“This is Doolin, my hometown,” he said with a slight gleam of pride. “I need to stop by the tour shop first. The owner will certainly know better than I about a place for you to stay.” He continued to look straight ahead, but there was a sign of compassion on his face that was undeniable. Chink. The sound resonated in my mind. 

 

“Thank you,” I said, more quietly than I’d meant to say. His face automatically turned toward mine and his smile found me. Our feet continued to strike the pavement as we passed shops filled with Irish charm and whimsical mementos. I scanned their windows with excitement, the reality of yesterday’s decisions finally catching up to me. My right shoulder ached and complained with each step I took. The oversized purse I used to carry essentials dug into my shoulder with a wicked bite. 

 

“Almost there,” Darby said as if he could sense my growing discomfort. I was beginning to wonder if he’d noticed my waning energy on our walk. I was hoping he hadn’t noticed my struggle to keep moving. Although, I’m not sure how he could have missed it. He couldn’t be that unobservant. Truthfully, I was already in pain when we started our journey. Now, I was in need of a bed. Urgently. I was praying there was one available in this village. 

 

We stopped in front of a lime green shop. It matched the color of Darby’s t-shirt. Every nuance of the village seemed to scream whimsy, from the cottage-shaped shops and curly fonts on the hanging signs to the hobbit-like thatched roofs. Doolin was definitely filled with plenty of character and joy. Something I desperately needed. I couldn’t have landed in a better spot if I’d been trying. Darby, however, scoffed at the traditional green leprechaun color and appeared to be allergic to anything promoting leprechauns and their legends. Perhaps, he was even allergic to himself. 

Darby turned to me with a stoic countenance. “Ok, I think this is never gonna happen . . . But, will you please let me do the talking? This is my boss that I’ll be talking to.” 

 

“Of course, Darby. Whatever would give you the impression–” I began sweetly. 

 

He held up a hand in front of my mouth. “Ok, save it. Don’t waste it on me. I'm sure it’s a very precious and limited reserve.” I let out a deep belly laugh just for him. This caught his attention and a smile crept across his face that he couldn’t hide, letting me know he thoroughly enjoyed it. 

 

“Right, let’s just go in,” he said as he ushered me inside. The wind chimes sang out their pure, melodious tones as we entered the shop.

“Makenna? Mak?” he called out. “I guess he must be in the back,” he said to me as he took me by the arm and led me further into the shop, talking to me in softer tones. He was close to my face as he spoke. His breath was just as soft and soothing as the Irish breeze on the cliffs today. I was getting lost in his scent when a figure popped up from behind the counter. We both jumped and I grabbed onto Darby, who, I’m sure in a lapse of judgment, chivalrously wrapped his arms around me. 

“Mak, you’re going to give me a heart attack. Don’t be a dosser like that!” I looked at Darby a little unsure and confused as to what that could mean, but based on his tone, I could tell it wasn’t a compliment. Also, I was a little bewildered that his arms were still around me, hugging me tightly around my back and waist. 

 

The older gentleman wiggled his extremely bushy eyebrows. He looked like an adorable older elf, only slightly taller. His white hair was wiry and unkempt. He was dressed in red flannel and suspenders, with a no-nonsense country flare about him. He reminded me of the older man from the classic film, The Luck of the Irish. “Darce, I see you’re still out wooing the ladies. At least now I know what you’ve been doing today. Although, I must say, she’s about fifty years younger than the ones you were supposed to be wooing. Unless she’s a granddaughter of one of ‘em, I’m not impressed.”

 

Darby started to open his mouth to speak, but he didn’t get one syllable out before the older man continued his lecture. “Now, Darce, do you know what my evening was like?” he asked in a worn-out tone.

 

“I–” Darby began, but Mak held up his hand.

 

“Let me stop you right there, you gobdaw. While you were lobbing the gob, I was back here with a bus full of fiery, unhappy senior citizens wanting to know why the tour with their favorite Mr. Darcy was cut short. They were asking not only for a full refund but also for a complimentary replacement tour. A special, extended tour to make up for the disappointment of their day.” 

 

Darby let out a groan that rolled through his entire body and onto me. “Mak–” 

 

“No, no indeed, you will give those ladies a new and extended tour. And you’re gonna be so “Darcesque” that it will hurt just a little bit. Look hard and find that one romantic bone hiding in your body. You’re sure gonna need it.”

 

“Mak, will you please let me explain?” 

 

“Why? You two are so close to each other, I can practically envision you shifting right before my eyes. At least have the decency to leave the lass outside, so your excuse is more believable. I was pretty irate, but now I’m happy to see that you might actually be capable of romance. So I’m gonna take it easy on you and let you off with just the extended tour. But only on the condition that you first introduce me to this mythical creature who unearthed a romantic soul hiding under that rough exterior.”

 

“Mak!” Darby stepped away from me so abruptly that I stumbled out of his warm arms. He looked down with apologetic eyes and steadied me. Snickers emanated from the older gentleman as Darby’s arms quickly shot out to anchor me. He rolled his eyes back to Makenna. “This is Eyre–” 

 

“As in . . . Well, isn’t this just the most fated romance–” Mak’s amusement had escalated to new heights.

 

“Mak!” Darby was steaming now. The older man was beyond snickering and had to support himself on the counter. Percussive sounds echoed throughout the shop as he continued to slap the counter. I stood in shock and complete amusement. I already loved this man and his antics. 

 

Then suddenly, the hand slapping stopped with only the echoes to keep us company. “What happened to your hat? You know we have a strict uniform policy here,” Mak said as soon as his eyes caught sight of Darby’s bare head. This proclamation cut through all his laughter. 

 

“27.50 Euros. I know. I’ll pay it again,” Darby said exasperatedly. Again? How many times did this happen? 

 

“The shirt looks a little kip too, Darce. You know these women aren’t paying to see a second rate, sloppy Darcy. I pride myself . . . ” 

 

“Mak, whatever. Will you just listen?” Darby was about to blow that short fuse again. The older man just rolled his eyes but managed to silence himself. “Eyre just arrived here without a place to stay–” 

 

Mak exclaimed, “What is she doing in Ireland without a place to stay? You can’t come in the busy season without a place to stay!” I could see the old man was getting very worked up. 

 

“Ok, Mak, you’re gonna have to let me speak more than a few words or this is not gonna work. Do you want to make it to the pub tonight or not?”

Mak sat with a thump on a wooden stool behind the counter in utter defeat. His silence was clearly his reply. When Darby said nothing, Mak looked at him like he was an idiot for not speaking. “Right, so Eyre needs a place to stay. She came to Ireland spontaneously–”

 

“Spontaneously?!” Mak burst out, obviously not able to help himself as he jumped off the stool.  

 

“So, I was hoping you knew of a place where she might be able to stay,” Darby finally finished. After several long minutes of a stare-down between the two, Mak finally spoke. Darby’s eyes had willed him to do so. Maybe there was a grandson-like plea in them and Mak took some mercy. 

 

Mak responded, “It’s going to be murder to find a place to stay. There’s not a single place that’s gonna be vacant. Our little village has very few spots available, and the surrounding villages are just about the same. You could travel to a bigger city like Dublin, but it will take a bit of time to get there. This is the peak tourist season. What would you like to visit while you’re here?”  

 

I didn’t know how to respond, so I looked at Darby with a pleading expression that asked him to be gracious and kind. 

 

“Mak, she’s here to be . . . spontaneous. That’s the whole concept. It’s all new to her, and unplanned, so I think that means she doesn’t know.” Well, it would have to be good enough. Beggars couldn’t be choosers. I sure wasn’t going to explain to Mak why I was here, either. 

 

I looked down at the floor with nervous embarrassment, and when I looked back up, there was a softness in Mak that I didn’t think he would be capable of possessing. He cleared his throat. “Sweetheart, Ireland is good for the soul. You need to see as much of it as you can. You probably don’t want to waste time traveling at this time of night, and I can also see that you’re tired.” Was it that obvious? The pain was probably pretty apparent, too. Mak’s voice cut through the white noise of my mind. “You’re never going to find a place to stay at this time of night, and we do have an extra room. Why don’t you stay with us? We live just up the hill. It’s country living, but you’re welcome to join us. And it’ll be nice to have a woman around. We’ve forgotten what one looks like.” He gave a small laugh. 

 

We? Did Darby live with this man? Was this his grandfather? I looked at Darby with confusion, hoping he’d enlighten me. 

 

Darby spoke up right away. “Wow, you sure took it easier on her for disrupting the tour than you did on me.” He looked at Mak with a stern gaze. One that said he should have run this little proposition by him first. “I’m out there rescuing damsels in distress, and then I get geriatric tour guide double duty. Hardly seems fair.” 

 

“Well, when you look like that,” he said, pointing at me, “then we’ll talk.”

 

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” I said, speaking for the first time. Their eyes both flashed over to me at hearing the sound of my voice. “You’re so very kind, but I’ll take a taxi to the nearest place you think will have accommodations. While I appreciate your offer, it’s too much to ask of you. Thank you, though.” 

 

Mak slowly looked from Darby to me and then back to Darby. His eyes landed on him, assessing the situation. His eyebrows slowly raised with mischief. “No, I insist. You shouldn’t deny an old man his wish.” 








Coming Soon! For pre-sale ONLY the ebook will be available on iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Tolino, Vivlio, and Smashwords. It releases on July 5-9 and then will no longer be offered on these platforms. Pre-sale opens June 9. On July 13 the ebook will only be available on Amazon and will become part of the Kindle Unlimited program. Amazon pre-sale will begin on June 13 as will the Goodreads giveaway. Make sure to enter to win a signed copy! It will be available in print on Amazon and other major retailers on July 13. Pre-sale discounts will be available on ALL platforms! 

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Eyre doesn’t realize when she buys a ticket to Ireland on a desperate whim, that she’s really buying a ticket to her heart. 

 

Eyre decides she’s had enough and jumps on the first appealing flight, landing her in the heart of Ireland. As she looks out from the Cliffs of Moher, she thinks about how much her Crohn’s and Endometriosis have forced her to give up in her life. 

Darby, definitely not to be confused with Darcy, is a cynical and jaded Irishman who doesn’t get emotionally involved–a true grump. This bad boy persona doesn’t allow for second dates and definitely not cuddling. While giving a tour, he spots a woman dangerously close to the edge of the cliffs and he’s drawn to her. 

But everything’s about to change for both of them. Darby collects Eyre as part of his tour group and decides to show her the heart of Ireland, and in doing so, shows her how much heart she still has left in herself. 

 

However, Darby has his own demons to face–invisible ones that he battles every day. With the help of a curmudgeonly older Irish man, a quirky border collie, and a fiery but grandmotherly bartender, these two wounded souls start to let each other into their hearts. But will it be enough for them to face the demons they've been trying to outrun for so long? And will it be enough for them to fall in love?

 

If you like clean romance novels, inspirational romance books, and emotional romantic books then you'll love The Irish Fall.  

 

See if Eyre finds what she's looking for in Ireland. Read today to start traveling with Eyre & Darby today. 

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 This is the second novel in the International Soulmates Series. The Irish Fall, is a sweet romance for clean and wholesome romance readers from the author of The Paris Soulmate, Brooke Gilbert. This Irish romance is the perfect way to travel from the comfort of your home, to the colorful and charming village of Doolin, Ireland. You will laugh, cry, and fall in love with the characters. And most importantly, if you have a chronic illness, you will feel seen. It's a beautiful journey with characters that you won’t want to leave behind.

 

This novel features in her “own voices” Esophageal Crohn’s, arthritic pain from Crohn’s, chronic pain, migraines, mental health and female issues. This disability representation is written by an author who also battles these disorders. Endometriosis and other mental health is represented in this novel as well. This is a clean novel. Descriptive kissing only. No cursing. Faith conversations included. Trigger warnings: mild medical episodes, panic attacks, discussions of infertility, discussions of suicidal thoughts.

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