Authors: Debby Conrad
Bailey’s Irish Dream
by Debby Conrad
Copyright 2012, Debby Conrad
For Ellie with love.
You have brought so much joy in such a short time.
I cannot wait to see you grow,
learn and laugh.
“What do you mean you’re calling off the wedding!” Bailey Maguire groaned into the phone. Pacing the floor of her bedroom, she cradled the portable phone between her ear and shoulder. “The invitations were sent out weeks ago, and my parents will be here tomorrow. What am I supposed to tell them, Stanley?”
Sighing, Stanley said, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t marry you.”
“But why?” she asked before she realized how pathetic she must sound.
“What does it matter? The point is I’m going to be out of the country for a little while, maybe for a long time. In fact, I’m at the airport now.”
Bailey heard a female voice in the background above the hustle-bustle sounds of the terminal. “Honey, you’d better hurry, they’re boarding our flight.”
Bailey’s mouth dropped open. That weasel. “Stanley, do you have another woman there with you?”
“No! Don’t be ridiculous.”
She couldn’t believe this was happening to her.
. What on earth was so wrong with her that she couldn’t pick a fiancé who would stick around long enough to actually marry her? Glancing in the mirror at herself, she decided she wasn’t ugly, so that couldn’t be it. Nor was she stupid. And she was rich, not that she wanted a man to love her because of that. “Stanley, don’t you care about me at all?” She was almost afraid to hear his answer.
“Uh, sure. And we can still be friends. Look, Bailey, they’re boarding my flight. I’m going to have to hang up now.”
Feeling deflated, she dropped onto the antique sleigh bed and sighed. “Oh, Stanley! How could you!”
have to go now, Bailey. Please don’t take this personally.”
“No, of course not,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Oh, there’s one more thing. Do you think you could water my plants and feed my fish while I’m gone? I left a key under the mat on my front porch.”
He had to be kidding
. But before she could give him a piece of her mind, he’d hung up. Bailey hit the disconnect button and tossed the phone aside. “Weasel.” She refused to cry and punched the mound of pillows at the head of her bed instead. How could Stanley have done such a thing? Especially since he’d known about Byron and Graham, fiancés number one and two, and how they’d hurt her.
Could she pick them, or what? A huge painful knot formed inside, and in spite of her promise not to cry, she found herself sobbing
Jade jumped onto the bed and brushed against Bailey’s arm, looking for a little attention. Bailey scratched the white Persian under the chin, enjoying the sound of her motorized purr. “What am I going to do?” she asked the cat, not expecting an answer, but hoping for one just the same. Jade licked at her paw, her turquoise eyes flashing. She didn’t seem to care that her mistress had been dumped; at the moment she seemed only interested in herself. She wiped her tears with the backs of her hands.
Bailey had thought Stanley was different. She’d been so sure he was Mr. Right. With his boyishly good looks and extreme intelligence, he could have any woman he wanted. He was a concert pianist and traveled all over the world to perform. Oh, how she loved listening to him play. And since he was so successful, that meant he wasn’t interested in her money, unlike Byron and Graham. He’d treated her so nicely; always full of compliments, and he’d brought her flowers, candy and trinkets for no occasion other than to be nice. What woman wouldn’t have fallen in love with him? Her parents would have liked him too. Not that that mattered anymore.
Jeez, what would she tell her parents?
Mom, Dad, I’m sorry you came all the way from Ireland to see me get married, but there isn’t going to be a wedding. I’ve just been dumped by another fiancé.
They’d probably disown her on the spot. What kind of daughter put her parents through such disgrace, and so many times? At least they had Kaitlyn--the perfect daughter. Well, sitting around feeling sorry for herself wouldn’t change matters any. In a day or two she’d have a good cry, but right now she needed to talk to Gwen.
Not that she expected much sympathy from her best friend. Gwen didn’t believe in marriage. The owner of a real estate company, she was a career woman, all the way. Gwen said she didn’t need a man to make her feel complete. Other than for sex, she thought men were a waste of her time.
“Well, I don’t need a man in my life either,” Bailey insisted, until she thought about the two hundred wedding invitations she’d mailed. The wedding was only twelve days away. She could just imagine all the gossip this news would stir up. Again.
Her mother was going to be so disappointed in her.
“Why me?” she asked Jade on a sob. The cat looked at her as if she couldn’t figure it out either, then went back to licking her paw.
* * * * * * * * * *
Another bill. Zedidiah Quinn added to the growing stack on the edge of his desk. What did it matter? The bank would soon start foreclosure on Quinn’s Bar and Grill unless he could come up with the money to satisfy the loans before the end of the month. Since he needed ninety-thousand dollars and change, that wasn’t likely to happen.
He’d already sold his house and most of his furniture and, to save on expenses, had moved into the apartment above the bar. The only thing left to sell was his Ducati, and Quinn would rather give up his right arm than part with that bike. Propping his elbows on the desk he let his head fall into his hands and blew out a frustrated breath.
But glancing at the silver-framed photo of his kid sister, holding his niece and nephew, he knew he’d go in debt all over again if it meant saving those kids’ lives. Dana and the twins were now living with his mother outside of Baltimore. At twenty-one, Dana was just a kid herself when she’d announced she was pregnant with twins during her junior year of college. Add to that, her loser boyfriend ran out on her when she refused to have an abortion. And then the babies were born with several birth defects including enlarged hearts.
Jacob and Jenny were only a few months old when they had to undergo their first surgery. Dana didn’t have any health insurance, so Quinn had used the bar as collateral to pay for the expensive medical bills. The twins just celebrated their second birthdays, and Dana was back in school.
Sean Rafferty, the new general manager, opened the door to Quinn’s office and stuck his head inside. “Hey, Quinn, I need to talk to you if you’ve got a minute.” Sean ran a hand through his bushy, carrot-red hair, careful to avoid Quinn’s eyes.
“Sure, c’mon in.”
But rather than come into the office, Sean lounged casually against the door frame, his immense six-feet-eight-inch form filling the opening. “I’m going to have to give my notice.”
Quinn sighed. He’d been expecting this. “Sean, can’t you hang on a little while longer. If you walk out now--”
“My paycheck bounced,” Sean said, a pained expression on his face. “That’s the second time this month. I’ve got a wife to support, and a baby on the way.”
“I know, I know. And I’m sorry.” Quinn stood, walked across the room to the safe and opened it. “I’ve got some cash here from last night. Not enough to cover your entire check, but maybe enough to tide you over--”
Sean raised his hands in front of him. “I can’t take your money, man.”
Quinn made his way toward Sean. “Sure you can.” He shoved a wad of bills at the man.
“Are you sure?”
Quinn nodded. “Take it. Buy something nice for Sarah.”
Sean stared at the money, then pushed the bills into his pants pocket. “Thanks.” He started to go, then looked back at Quinn. “You know, maybe you should reconsider that offer Gwen Peterson brought you. I know the guy didn’t offer much for this place, but at least you’d be out of debt. I honestly don’t know how you sleep nights with all those bills.”
Putting up a front, Quinn waved a hand in the air. “I’ll be fine. I just need a little luck, and I’ll be back on my feet in no time.” Either luck or a miracle, he thought.
Shaking his head, Sean said, “Sure. If it’ll help, I’ll stay till the end of the month.”
“I’d appreciate that.” Once Sean had gone, Quinn dropped into the chair behind the desk. “A miracle,” he mumbled. “Yeah, right.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Gwen asked Bailey to meet her at Quinn’s Bar and Grill at noon. Although the restaurant was only a few blocks from her house, Bailey had never eaten there before. But since the parking lot was packed she assumed the place had decent food. After parking her red Porsche on the far side of the building, she made her way to the front door and went inside. Located near the peninsula in Erie, Pennsylvania, the restaurant was decorated with a nautical theme. The main dining room was small and cozy with lots of atmosphere and a dance floor, and to the right there was a second dining room where a jukebox strained to be heard.
There was a line just inside the door. A huge man with Woody Woodpecker hair greeted her with a smile and told Bailey there’d be a forty-minute wait. She’d started to give him her name when she saw Gwen waving to her from the bar. “Thanks anyway, but I’ve spotted my friend.”
Gwen sat, smiling, legs crossed, on the padded stool. A Bloody Mary--Gwen’s favorite drink--sat on the teakwood bar in front of her. She wore a crisp white business suit, and her blonde hair clustered in short curls around a heart-shaped face.
“Hey, girlfriend!” Gwen greeted Bailey, her blue eyes twinkling.
Bailey hugged her and said, “Hey, yourself. You look great.”
Bailey doubted it. She’d chosen a pair of black linen slacks and a matching blouse. Nothing spectacular, but the color seemed appropriate for her mood today. She’d pulled her long auburn hair back in a ponytail, and she hadn’t bothered with make-up other than a little blush and a thin coat of lip gloss. “Thanks,” she said anyway, taking the seat next to her friend.
“I thought we’d eat at the bar, rather than wait for a table. I hope you don’t mind.” Bailey told Gwen she didn’t mind at all. “Hey, Quinn,” Gwen yelled to the tall, dark-haired man behind the bar. “This is my friend, Bailey Maguire. Can you mix her something to brighten her mood?”
“Sure.” The man ambled toward them. “How about one of our specialty drinks?” he suggested, sliding a menu across the bar. “The Bahama Mama will perk you right up. Guaranteed.” Winking at Bailey, he rested his elbows on the bar.
His tawny brown eyes flickered with curiosity while Bailey pretended to study the drink selections. “I’d rather have a glass of Chardonnay.”
Quinn straightened to his full height and slung a dishtowel over his right shoulder. “Coming right up,” he said, turning his back to them and facing the mirrored wall. He wore tight, well-worn blue jeans and a white long-sleeved polo shirt. The sleeves were pushed up to his elbows, revealing crisp dark hair on his muscular forearms. As he reached for a wine glass, he appeared to be studying her in the mirror.
Gwen leaned over and whispered in Bailey’s ear. “Nice buns, huh?”
Bailey dismissed her friend with a wave of her hand.
Okay, so he has nice buns. Who cares?
She saw him watching her again, and deliberately averted her eyes from the mirror.
“Aw, honey, cheer up,” Gwen said, elbowing Bailey in the arm. Picking up her Bloody Mary, Gwen took a long drink. “There’s no reason to lose any sleep over Stanley. He did you a favor by dumping you. The man was a jerk from the word go.”
Bailey stared at her with an odd sense of disappointment. “You never told me you thought that.”
Gwen shrugged her shoulders and took another drink from her glass. “You never asked. What you need is a good vibrator. That’ll put a smile on your face.”
, I can’t believe--” She paused mid sentence when Quinn appeared with the wine. Embarrassed by Gwen’s outrageous suggestion, Bailey refused to look up. She only prayed the man hadn’t heard the discussion.
“What else can I get for you two pretty ladies? If you’re thinking about lunch, the jambalaya’ll knock your socks off.”
Gwen smiled flirtatiously and batted her eyelashes. “I’d love some, Quinn. Did you make it yourself?”
“You betcha.” Quinn looked Bailey’s way. “How about you? Wanna try some?”
“Fine,” Bailey said, without any enthusiasm whatsoever, and handed the menu back to him, unread.
A bald, rotund man on the stool next to her said, “Quinn’s jambalaya will sure get you fired up.”
Wondering if the man had overheard Gwen’s suggestion, Bailey smiled politely then swiveled her chair to face her friend.
“Yessiree,” the man continued. “That jambalaya sure is hot. Now, me, I can’t eat them hot spicy foods no more.” Bailey glanced his way, pretending to be interested. “I get the indigestion something fierce, and I won’t tell you what else happens when I eat that stuff. It ain’t pretty, let me tell you, and you probably don’t wanna hear about it while you’re eating your lunch.”
Bailey forced another smile and watched as the man took several huge gulps of beer from a glass mug. “Well, thanks for sharing that with me,” she said for lack of anything else to say.