Start the new year…
…with a series. I’m sort of at a loss for what to do with myself this January. In the past few years, I’ve always had a January release to promote. Sadly…my new releases for 2014 don’t hit until February. Which leaves me with a wee bit of time on my hands…heehee…
I thought I’d spend the first month of 2014 trying to tempt you. I have quite a few complete series out. I know there are lots of folks out there who don’t like to start a series until all the books are available. Believe me, I feel your pain. Spent lots of excruciating months of my life waiting for the NEXT book…be it Harry Potter or Outlander or countless other series. I’m not the most patient of people, so when folks ask me…are all the books out in this series? I get where they’re coming from.
So…in January, I’m sharing the first chapter of the first book in every COMPLETED series I’ve written and I thought I’d start with one of my all-time favorites–the Wild Irish series. There are 8 books in all and they each feature a different sibling in the Collins family, who live and work in the family’s Irish pub in Baltimore, Maryland.
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day,
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
~Traditional nursery rhyme
Keira Collins stared at the paper in her hands and bit back the growl of frustration that bubbled beneath the surface. She’d received another C-plus. Professor Wallace had finished handing out the graded work and was beginning his lesson on the importance of dialogue in fictional writing.
Screw him and his damn quotation marks.
She’d only taken this creative writing class on the advice of her advisor, who claimed she needed another English credit to fulfill the college’s stupid general education requirements. So far she’d taken two years’ worth of what she called “High School, the Sequel”, all without setting foot in a single class in her major program. She wanted a degree in business technology, not to be the next freaking Nora Roberts.
The worst part of this class was, she knew her papers were perfect. English had always been one of her best classes in high school. She knew how to write a complete sentence—unlike Roy Decker. She glanced at the nineteen-year-old frat boy next to her to try to see what grade he’d gotten. She’d been paired up with Roy as critique partners the first week of class back in January. All that basically meant was she practically rewrote every word of his papers while he stared at hers and said, “This is real good.”
Roy caught her gaze and flashed his paper toward her with an enormous grin, another C-minus, which apparently delighted the slack-ass boy to no end.
Great. They’d both gotten C’s…again.
Her temper rose and she shot daggers at the back of her professor’s head as he wrote the proper way to punctuate dialogue within a sentence on the white board. She’d tried—really tried—to use the man’s asinine comments to improve with each paper, but it was clear she was beating her head against a brick wall—a six-foot-two-inch brick wall with light brown hair and soulful, deep brown eyes.
Crap, why did her teacher have to be so hot? He made her think completely inappropriate thoughts and she’d be damned if she became a cliché—the college coed who falls in love with her professor.
She’d refused to question Professor Wallace personally about her papers because the idea of being anywhere alone with him intimidated the hell out of her. When he looked at her, she felt as if he saw way more than just the surface and she was uncomfortable under his all-knowing gaze. Usually she kept her eyes averted as she took notes from the man’s lectures lest she unwittingly reveal her less-than-scholarly interest in him.
But now it was mid-April, just two weeks from the end of the semester, and she’d finally hit her limit on all these damn C’s. He was younger than most of her college professors—somewhere in his mid-thirties, she guessed, which should make him more approachable, not less. At twenty-seven, she was just old enough to feel completely out of place on campus as she watched the barely-out-of-their-teens student body discussing last weekend’s wild parties. She should be old enough, mature enough to face Professor Wallace without babbling like a child. But there was something about the man. She didn’t have trouble telling anyone what she thought and she considered herself a fairly independent, outspoken woman…with everyone except him.
He turned back toward the class and caught her eye. In the past, she would have scrambled to avoid that intense look. Instead, she narrowed her eyes and held his gaze. He stumbled momentarily over his words and she felt a small, petty smile curve the side of her lips.
She’d shaken Mr. Unshakable. Caused Mr. Perfect to lose his implacable cool.
He recovered quickly, finishing his thought, but his eyes refused to move from hers and she felt the moment stretching into a battle of wills. For several minutes, he continued to speak as if she were the only person in the room while she merely stared, not bothering to write down a word of his lecture. She’d pay for that stubbornness later, but right now the only thing that mattered was winning this war.
“Um, Professor Wallace.” Roy’s hand went up, forcing both of them to break their concentration.
“Yes, Mr. Decker.”
“It’s time for class to be over.”
Professor Wallace grinned and Keira sucked in a deep breath at the sight. For a moment her confidence, her determination wavered and she considered avoiding the coming confrontation once again.
“So it is. I want you to bring rough drafts of a five-page short story to class next time. There must be a lengthy dialogue included in the story. Class dismissed. Miss Collins,” Professor Wallace added as she rose. “Please follow me to my office. I’d like to speak to you about your paper.”
Shit. Double shit.
She’d gone too far apparently, tempted the bear from his den and he had taken the decision to discuss her grade out of her hands.
She stiffened her spine and watched the other students file out as she gathered her things. Once the room was empty, the professor gestured for her to precede him down the hall. She knew where his office was, having stood outside the closed door on more than one occasion debating whether or not to knock and question his grading practices. She’d never managed to work up the nerve. She was starting to think she wouldn’t have held on to it tonight either.
They approached his office door and he unlocked it, again motioning for her to lead the way. As she entered the room, she heard the door close behind them.
She turned and glanced at the closed door. He followed her gaze.
“I want to ensure that we aren’t disturbed.” His words, though spoken lightly, sent a shiver of fear through her. His voice was deep, sensuous, and she found her thoughts drifting to places best left unexplored.
“How old are you, Miss Collins?” he asked.
She was taken aback by his unexpected question. “I’m twenty-seven. Why?”
“You’re considerably older than the other students in the class.” His reply was succinct, but far from an answer.
She didn’t think it was any mystery that she was older than most of her classmates.
“I don’t consider seven, eight years such a vast gap.”
He grinned at her and again she felt overwhelmed by the power of his close proximity. Every time the man got within five feet of her, her body shifted into overdrive. Her nipples were erect, her breathing stilted, her stomach tied in knots.
“I agree. It isn’t,” he assured her, and she realized at that moment he wasn’t completely unaffected by their nearness either. He seemed slightly nervous as well. “You don’t live on campus, do you?”
As he spoke, his eyes covertly traveled down her body and she was struck by the fact that his wayward glance didn’t bother her, as it did when patrons of the restaurant where she worked did the same. His look seemed to be more appraising, almost clinical, while with other men the look couldn’t be called anything more than a leer, an unsavory study of her body. She’d long ago accepted that men found her pretty. With waist-length, wavy black hair, porcelain skin and ice blue eyes, she’d fought off more than her share of unwanted attention. Of course, it helped that she had four enormous, overprotective brothers at her back.
“No, I don’t live on campus,” she replied. She still lived at home with her father and siblings, still worked as a waitress at the family business, still did everything the same as she had when she was a teenager. She sighed as she considered his question and how dull her life truly was.
Her mother had passed away midway through her senior year and the raising of her six younger brothers and sisters had fallen to her. Not that her father had ever charged her with that duty. As the oldest, she’d simply assumed the role because, well, there hadn’t been anyone else and because she loved her family almost to the exclusion of everything else. She wondered sometimes if she’d almost lost her own identity in that love.
She glanced at the clock that hung on his wall. Five fifteen. She only had forty-five minutes to weave her way out of this unusual conversation and bust ass across town to be at work by six.
“You have some concerns about your grade, I believe.” His astute comment, on the heels of his strange questions, left her reeling.
“Um, yes,” she began, struggling to speak her mind under his intense gaze.
What would he look like without any clothes on?
That inappropriate question sent a flush of heat to her face and she watched his gaze narrow, his lips twitch slightly. He couldn’t know what she was thinking. Could he?
“I don’t understand why you keep giving me C’s.”
“I don’t give grades, Miss Collins. My students earn them.”
She rolled her eyes at the old teacher line and was surprised when her reaction provoked a light laugh from the man.
“I used to hate it when my teachers used that answer on me as well,” he admitted.
“My papers are grammatically correct. I include paragraphs, proper punctuation and I know the spelling is flawless.”
“And this, to you, indicates A work?” he asked.
“Yes.” She looked up at him, wondering how they’d gotten so close. She could have sworn when they’d begun this conversation, he’d been halfway across the room. Had she moved? Had he?
“I’ve given you suggestions on every paper.”
She scoffed. “The same suggestion on every paper and it doesn’t make any sense. You say my writing lacks emotion. I’ve tried to address that, but you still say the same thing, every time. And you gave Roy Decker the same damn grade. His paper sucked.”
“Miss Collins, this course is over in two weeks. Why are you only now questioning your grades? That comment?”
Frustration and weariness won out in her fight to maintain her anger. She still had an eight-hour shift to work. “I guess I thought I could figure it out on my own, but I can’t. Fact is, I don’t understand what you want from me.”
He paused and for a moment she thought her question had taken him unaware, or somehow lowered his guard. “I want quite a lot from you actually.”
She glanced at his face and was struck by the strange notion that his answer meant far more than schoolwork.
He must have recognized her confused look as he clarified, “I know what my students are capable of and I grade their work on an individual basis, on what I know they’re able to produce. I’m sorry, but I won’t discuss Roy’s grade with you.”
His laugh lines at the corners of his eyes crinkled as the beginning of his gorgeous grin peeked out again. She closed her eyes to block out the mouthwatering sight. She was fighting some serious arousal issues right now.
“I have high expectations of you because I know you are capable of writing something truly wonderful. There is more to writing than simply dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
“I understand that. I just don’t know how to do what you’re asking.”
“Bring your papers—all of them—tomorrow. My first office hour starts at nine. Can you be here by then?”
She nodded. “Why?”
“We’ll compromise. I’m going to show you what I mean about adding emotion to your writing and you’re going to revise every paper, and then I’ll re-grade them.”
“We’ve written quite a few things,” she said, trying not to have a nervous breakdown. Finals were approaching and the thought of rewriting nearly a dozen assignments made her want to cry. However, the idea of doing so much work paled in comparison to the thought of spending even more time alone with Professor Wallace.
“It may take us several meetings to get through all of them, Miss Collins.”
“Keira,” she said without thinking.
“My name is Keira.”
He nodded. “Keira.”
Electricity shot through her body at the sound of her name spoken in his deep, sensual voice. For a moment, she envisioned herself tied spread-eagle to his bed as he whispered her name again.
Tied to his bed? What the hell kind of image was that? She blushed again as he took one step closer. She swallowed heavily when his gaze landed on her lips. Her tongue darted out to moisten them before she considered what her action might insinuate.
Was she inviting this? Him? To kiss her?
She struggled to breathe as they stood spellbound, motionless for one long moment.
He recovered first, clearing his throat and stepping away. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning then.”
She nodded, relieved—and oddly disappointed—to be granted so quick a reprieve. She turned toward the exit, ready to beat a hasty retreat.
“Oh and Keira,” he said as she reached to open the door. She glanced over her shoulder at him. “Don’t be late.” His words were spoken lightly, but she sensed a darker, more thrilling underlying meaning. The words or I’ll punish you hovered unspoken between them.
She held his gaze, nodded once and left.
* * * * *
“You’re late,” Tristan called out from behind the bar.
“So fire me,” she yelled back, glad there were at least some perks to working in the family business. She and her siblings could give each other hell for anything and everything at work, but all of them would still be employed in the morning.
“I was starting to worry about you, Kiki,” her father said as he bustled out of the kitchen with a loaded tray in his hands. He gave her a quick buss on the cheek as he passed and she struggled not to roll her eyes at the pet nickname. She’d broken her siblings of using the annoying name years ago through sheer brute force and now they only used it in the midst of an argument because they knew how much the silly name irritated her.
“I’m sorry, Pop. Traffic was terrible. What are you doing carrying that heavy tray?” The doctor had issued a serious warning to her father regarding his high blood pressure in his last checkup and, as a result, she was determined to see him working less and resting more. The only reason she’d gotten him to the doctor at all was because he’d had a couple of dizzy spells. It had scared her to death so she’d sicced Teagan, her younger sister on him. Pop couldn’t resist Teagan’s puppy dog eyes or sweet, baby girl pleading.
To make matters worse, his high cholesterol was giving his off-the-charts blood pressure a run for its money, so the doctor had prescribed medication and a vacation. Unfortunately, telling Patrick Collins to relax was sort of like trying to convince the Pope to convert to Scientology.
“It’s not heavy.”
She fought back a groan of frustration. Damn man would work himself into an early grave. That thought, as always, scared the hell out of her and she dashed toward the stairs that led to their home above the restaurant. “Let me go throw on my uniform and I’ll take over.”
“Take your time. I’ve got things in hand here. The real dinner rush is only just starting,” Pop answered, placing food in front of a couple of regulars before coming over to her with the empty tray in his hands.
“You’re not supposed to be doing any lifting. Hell, you aren’t supposed to be working at all. I thought we agreed that you’d take a couple of weeks off.”
“Now don’t you go lecturing me, Kiki. I’m older and wiser than you. That doctor is a flake, trying to get me to spend my hard-earned money on a bunch of useless pills.” This argument was tedious in its redundancy. Patrick Collins was king of the conspiracy theorists, sure everyone from lawyers to doctors to pharmacists were secret government agents dead-set on taking his money.
He tapped his chest as he spoke and Keira sighed. “Who knows what this body can do? Me, that’s who. This ticker has plenty more mileage on it.”
Keira gave in, only because she was anxious to continue the fight in her uniform so at least she could be waiting on the tables and cutting down on some of her father’s workload.
“Fine, Pop. You win for now. Let me go change and I’ll help you.”
As she climbed the stairs to the family’s living quarters, she ran into Sean, her youngest brother, at the door. She loved all her siblings dearly but if forced to decide, she had to admit to a special fondness for the eighteen-year-old Sean. Perhaps it was because he felt more like her own child, rather than just a brother. While she’d merely taken on the mother role figuratively in her other siblings’ lives, she truly had raised Sean, who had only been nine when their mother died.
“Where are you going?” she asked as he put on his coat. “It’s a school night.” Even as she asked the question, she internally winced. She just couldn’t seem to kick the mother hen habit where he was concerned.
“Big history project due tomorrow. I’m going to Chad’s house to work on it.”
“Oh, okay. Well listen, don’t be too late. Did you eat something?”
“Chad’s mom’s having lasagna. She invited me to eat with them.”
“Sorry about dinner,” she said, guilt pummeling her. Prior to her decision to attend college, she’d always made sure there was at least something on the table for dinner. Her mother had ensured the family gathered for dinner upstairs, away from the hubbub of the restaurant, and for years Keira had managed to maintain that tradition. In many ways, she felt as though she was letting her family down through her decision to continue her education.
Sean grinned and gave her a quick hug. “Are you kidding me? Chad’s mom makes the world’s greatest lasagna. She makes it from scratch.”
She laughed. “What? You mean people actually eat lasagna that doesn’t come in a box marked Stouffer’s? You’re kidding me.”
“Riley would flip out to hear you even mention frozen lasagna.”
Keira nodded. “Yeah well, that’s clearly why she took over the cooking duties as soon as she was old enough.” Riley was destined to become the greatest chef in Baltimore. Despite being only twenty-one, she was setting the city on its ear with her delicious recipes. Since she’d assumed the role as chef in the restaurant, business had nearly doubled as folks came from far and near to eat her traditional Irish dishes.
“I gotta go or I’ll be late. See you later, Keira.”
“Bye, Sean. Be careful.” He rolled his eyes at her warning. It was the same warning she gave him every time he left the house. They were the identical words her mother had always said to her and she was determined Sean would have the same life he would have had if their mother hadn’t been taken from him when he was so young.
She changed quickly and returned to the restaurant just in time for the dinner rush. She was so busy she didn’t have time to worry about the prospect of returning to Professor Wallace’s office until she fell into bed that night. It was well after two a.m. and she knew she should be too tired to think, but her mind kept lingering on a dangerous, delicious fantasy.
In her thoughts, she’d overslept and was running late…
She rushed into Professor Wallace’s office shortly after nine with an apology hovering on her lips.
“Shut the door, Miss Collins,” he said before she could speak. “And lock it.”
She obeyed, wondering at his too-calm disposition.
Again she complied and a tiny part of her marveled at his ability to make her follow his commands. She wasn’t the type of person to take orders easily from anyone. She’d spent far too much of her life in charge, the responsibility of caring for her family weighing heavily on her shoulders.
“You’re late,” he said.
Again she started to apologize, but he placed a firm finger against her lips, halting all sound.
“I warned you.”
“Turn around and bend over the desk. Lift your skirt in the back.”
She shivered at his request before her fantasy broke briefly.
Why am I wearing a skirt? I never wear them.
Shrugging off the wayward thought, she bent over his big desk, her mind only slightly aware of the fact the surface had been cleared.
His hand lightly brushed the back of her thigh as he helped her raise her skirt to her waist. She whimpered softly at the impact of his touch.
“Shh,” he soothed. “This is for your own good.” As he spoke, he brought his hand down against her buttocks. Over and over he spanked her as she trembled against the wooden desk. Her body revolted against her mind, the ingrained part of her that said this was wrong, as she lurched back, aching for more of his blows. His hand fell without restraint, without ceasing, and before she could make sense of what was happening, she came. Loudly.
“Ahh!” Keira bolted upright in bed and glanced around, afraid she’d woken her sisters with her cry. Riley and Teagan didn’t stir, a fact for which she was grateful. They’d think she’d had a nightmare and there was no way she could explain that fantasy to them.
She silently gasped for breath, her body trembling, demanding the climax she’d dangled in front of it then ruthlessly denied. A trickle of sweat ran down her cheek. She wiped it away, wrapping her arms around her bent knees, trying to regain some semblance of control.
She’d never fantasized about such things before entering Professor Wallace’s class. In the four short months she’d been his student, her mind had wandered to so many dark, forbidden places she wondered if the man had somehow hypnotized her. She’d never experienced such intense, powerful fantasies. She took a deep, calming breath and lay down again.
Figured. Her first real taste of hardcore, passionate need and it was directed at a man who was completely unattainable. He was her teacher, for God’s sake. She glanced at the clock. In six hours she would be alone with him—and heaven help her, because she was sure she’d never be able to hide her desires from his too-knowledgeable gaze.
He was too perceptive, too attentive.