Copyright © Kathy Kulig, 2017
“Dinner?” Jack asked, an easy smile greeting her at the opened doorway to her cottage.
“Jack! Hi.” Dana’s stomach gave a bit of a flutter. She knew he was probably looking at her opened suitcases with clothes piled all over the bed. Once she’d had her harp, she’d given up unpacking to practice. It’d been over two weeks since she’d played. Usually if she went more than a day she started climbing the walls. “What?” Sometimes when she played her harp she’d get so disconnected from the world. It took her a second to understand what he asked. “A little early for dinner, isn’t it? I was going to find a market in town for groceries. I can cook something here.”
His eyebrows rose. “It’s twenty minutes to town. I doubt you’ll have time if you plan to make the meeting.”
“I have all afternoon.” She checked her watch. It was nearly five p.m. “Oh my God. I was playing for four hours.” She suddenly realized she was hungry. “I guess I’ll have to go after the meeting.”
Jack shook his head. “Bet you didn’t have lunch either.”
She didn’t answer.
“Follow me,” he ordered, walking off her porch, not waiting for her to answer.
“Hang on, let me get my sweatshirt.” Dana sorted through the clothes on her bed and found her sweatshirt and put it on. She slipped the room key in her pocket and felt an object like a large coin. She pulled it out and studied it. Not a coin, but the intricate detail of an old brooch. Made of either bronze or copper, a coiled design like a labyrinth circle sat in the center surrounded by Celtic knots. Weird. She didn’t remember anyone giving her the brooch, and wondered if it was an artifact and maybe she could be in trouble for having it. She turned it over and found nothing carved on the back. The idea that someone must’ve slipped it in her pocket was unsettling and a little annoying.
“Dana?” Jack called from her porch.
“Coming.” She placed the brooch in a drawer and planned to take it back to the castle later, then rushed out of her cottage, locked her door, and ran to catch up to him. “Where are we going?” she asked Jack.
He didn’t answer and kept walking. She hesitated for a moment then decided to see what he had in mind. Jack had to go to the meeting too. Maybe he knew a local place where she could get a quick bite.
“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”
“And why are we going to your place?” she asked. He gave her a sexy grin and her pulse kicked up a few beats. The sexy voice she remembered hearing on the phone certainly matched the rugged good looks of the man before her. Following him gave her a nice view of him from the back, from wide shoulders, to the tight ass in snug jeans to boots.
He glanced over his shoulder and shot her a dark look from blue-gray eyes. “Trust me.” His cottage had the same layout as hers—the kitchenette at the front of the cottage, the bed with a red patterned duvet and a loveseat in the back. It was neat and organized except for several boxes stacked in one corner, a laptop computer on the small dining table and a bicycle propped against a wall. A wide window overlooked the forest behind the cottages.
In the kitchenette, he took out pots and pans, sliced brown bread and removed an enormous amount of food from the refrigerator.
“I don’t want you to go to any trouble,” she said.
“Shepherd’s Pie is no trouble. It’s dinner. Have a seat. It won’t take long. But this kitchen is too small for two people.” He handed her silverware and pointed to one of two chairs at the small dining table. After fixing them both a cup of tea, he went to work on their meal.
“Thanks, Jack.” She watched him boil the potatoes and prepare a meat filling. As he added rosemary, thyme and other spices to the bubbling mixture, Dana inhaled the savory aroma. “Mmm. That smells wonderful.”
“Won’t be long.” He added the meat and vegetable mixture to a casserole dish and covered it with mashed potatoes, then slid it into the oven.
He sat at the table and poured more tea. “How long have you been playing the harp? Is that your full-time job?”
She tightened the grip around her mug, suddenly reminded the fulfillment of her dream was only temporary. “I’ve been playing the harp since I was eight years old. I dreamed of playing in a symphony someplace, but my parents felt that dream was not practical so I went to school for electrical engineering and work designing security systems. Not very glamourous but it pays the bills.”
He frowned. “Sounds like you don’t like it much.”
She shrugged. “It’s okay.”
“Do you get to play your harp in other concerts?”
She stared at the table and grasped her hands in her lap. “No, I play for my own pleasure.”
She looked at him and smiled. “I enjoy playing. I don’t need an audience.”
“How long have you been doing the show?”
He leaned back with his mug and took a sip. “Couple years. It’s a part-time job and doesn’t pay much. I also manage my uncle’s store. Before the show, I worked in the woolen mills factory. I hated it. I’m trying to buy out my uncle’s shop so he can retire. I’m waiting to see if the bank will cooperate. If not, I’ll return to the mills.”
“I hope it works out for you.”
Jack got up and took the casserole out of the oven, served portions on two plates and cut slices of the homemade bread. “How do you like it? Good?” he asked after she’d tasted it.
“This is great. You didn’t bake the bread, did you?”
He laughed. “No. I’ll take you to the market in the morning and show you around town, including the bakery.”
“That’s really nice of you.” She glanced around his cottage. “What do you sell at your uncle’s store?” She devoured the shepherd’s pie. Have to love a guy who could cook.
“Woolens and leather goods.”
“I’ll have to stop by and check it out. I’m sure I could use a sweater in this weather. Ireland’s summers are cooler than I’m used to.” Something about the way the man looked at her made her squirm in her seat. Not in a bad way. He had the most gorgeous blue eyes, sensual, intense but at the same time calming. “Not the season for leather though. Too warm and too much rain.”
Jack smiled. “Leather never goes out of season.” The look he gave her spread heat and longing through her. It was a very bad idea to get involved with someone considering she would leave in three months. “Leather goods provide our largest sales in the summer.” His voice lowered. “Some of our clientele have special requests.”
The way he said it made her feel strangely aroused. Her nipples tingled and hardened and her pussy throbbed. “Should I ask?”
He shrugged. “Fetish wear and bondage equipment. More pie?” He got up and spooned another serving of shepherd pie.
She swallowed. “No, thanks. I’ve had enough.”
His gaze locked with hers as if he was testing her, waiting to see if she’d react to the comment about leather goods. This reminded her of a business deal. Was he playing games with her? If he was, she wasn’t going to let him rile her. “Interesting. And what’s your best-selling SM device?”
Smiling he said, “Floggers, then various restraints. A lot of people enjoy pain.”
“Mmmm.” She said it in a tone as if they spoke about the weather or a favorite movie.
“What do know of the SM scene?” He was serious, the teasing tone gone.
She took in a breath. Images of the couple in the castle’s dungeon flashed in her mind. Heat flowed through her like warmed honey. Her pussy felt wet and achy. “Not a lot. I read some about it.
Curious, I guess.”
He smiled. “Fantasized then?”
She choked on the last spoonful of her dinner. “Wow, this conversation got personal. From groceries to bondage to sexual fantasies.” Her voice shook and her whole body heated. Exhilarated by the topic, she pressed her thighs together as her pussy clenched and pulsed. Damn, this man had her worked up now, and she’d only just met him. “Why didn’t you mention this in your emails?”
“You mean about working in a store?”
She laughed nervously. “I mean about the SM products you sell.”
He shrugged. “I didn’t want to scare you off. We needed a harpist and your cousin highly recommended you.”
“I don’t scare too easily.” She smiled. God, was she flirting? Yes, she was flirting and wasn’t he her coworker?
“What does scare you?” He shot her a self-satisfied grin.
Her mind went to the couple in the dungeon. Had they bought leather items from Jack’s store? Was she scared by what she’d seen? Or intrigued? This time she shrugged. “I’ll have to let you know.”
“I’ll count on that,” he lowered his voice and heat flowed through her. “We should go to the castle.”
“What?” she breathed. Dana’s heart fluttered as she thought about Jack tying her up in the dungeon. So soon? He didn’t waste any time.
“The meeting is starting in a few minutes. What did you think I meant?”