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Straight UpStraight Up

The Latest In The Wild Hart series


Order Now!

Ireland is a good place to get lucky...

Even a man on the run can enjoy the thrill of the chase...

After getting on the bad side of New York's Irish mob, Liam O'Brien thought he could weather the storm back in Ireland. Working as a bartender in his parent's old village of Ballycraig, he's not looking for any trouble. But he could use a bit of fun.

Aislinn McCafferty has already been scorned by a man once at the wedding altar. Now, any man who tries to woo her is quickly and coldly dispatched. The unknowing Liam soon learns this the hard way--and is immediately intrigued.

Eagerly accepting a wager from the pub's owner, Liam begins a determined pursuit of the stubborn and beautiful Aislinn, who in turn uses all of her wiles to rid herself of the charmingly determined Yank. But neither of them expects this donnybrook of the sexes to turn into an unlikely love...

 

Reviews

“STRAIGHT UP is a charming, witty, romantic tale by author Deirdre Martin... a compelling and highly satisfying tale that readers are sure to enjoy. ”
— Debbie, Single Title Reviews

“Deirdre Martin pens a beautiful story called STRAIGHT UP where love comes when you least expect it...it has everything you want in in a romance novel: realistic, lovable characters, a fantastic setting, and lots of emotion. ”
— Tammy, Fallen Angels Reviews, 4 Angels!

“This was a real Irish romance that any romantic-at-heart will love to pick up and read. I for one, am going to have this one on my keeper shelf. Whenever I want to smile and reminisce about a story of true love, I'm going to bring out Straight Up so that I can read it again. ”
— Tina, TwoLips Reviews

“Delightful and eccentric characters a very hot and sexy romance and, an evenly paced and clever story that truly packs a wallop to your emotions make STRAIGHT UP a good choice for your summer reading.”
— Vicki Denney, Reader to Reader.com

“I haven't laughed so much through a book in a long time. Deirdre Martin knows how to add spunk and life to characters in a way that is genuinely funny. A delightful story that will captivate the reader from beginning to end.”
— Robyn, Once Upon A Romance

“Deirdre Martin's STRAIGHT UP is warm-hearted, the characters believable and it is an excellent read from start to finish.”
— Sheila Hendrix, Affaire de Coeur, Five Stars

“Ms. Martin writes stories about real people in real relationships, which is refreshing in a world of fantastical plot set-ups and contrived conflicts.”
— Jane Granview, All About Romance

“STRAIGHT UP successfully weaves the perils of falling in love amongst the realities of life. Liam and Aislinn's relationship will tangle your heart with emotions!”
—Sarah, A Romance Review

“Delightful...filled with Irish charm and dialogue... an excellent novel.”
—Jeri Neal, The Romance Readers Connection

“In STRAIGHT UP, Deirdre Martin brings readers to the rural countryside of Ireland for an entertaining, jovial read that's sure to please.”
—Patti Fischer, Romance Reviews Today

“STRAIGHT UP abounds with energy, Irish humor, a little melancholy but also plenty of love and happiness. Aislinn and Liam take a chance on love and it pays off in spades.”
—Romance Junkies

“I absolutely and completely fell in love with Straight Up! I found Aislinn to be a courageous woman...Liam's growth from egotistical jerk to a man who falls in love was a beautiful sight to see. Ms. Martin continues to spin a web of Irish tale and romance with unique characters that have you wanting to visit Ireland... What an outstanding novel; one that will have you quickly turning pages and staying up late just to see what is in store for these two hot-tempered characters.”
— Danielle, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More, 5 Cups

“An enjoyable romance...Deirdre Martin provides an amusing tale of love.”
— Genre Go Round Reviews

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

The Yank, the Yank, the Yank. For the past two weeks, all Aislinn heard every time she ventured into Ballycraig from the farm was that there was a handsome American in town, working as a bartender at the The Royal Oak. They said he was the nephew of Bridget and Paul O’Brien, two of the nicest people in town, and the dirt was that he was from New York City and was supposedly on the lam from the Irish mob. The Yank, the Yank, the Yank. Aislinn decided it was time to check out the specimen herself.

She took her battered old truck into town rather than ride her bike, since a lgentlerain was falling. Last time she’d chanced a bike ride in a light rain, the drizzle had turned into an all out, pelting downpour. She was in no mood to find herself cycling back home drenched to the bone, clothes pasted to her like a cold, second skin. No mood at all.

Aislinn had to park down Kennealy Way, one of Ballycraig’s narrow, cobbled back alleys, since all the parking spots on the high street street were taken. There may have been only 3,000 people in the village, but from the looks of it, all of them were crammed into Oak tonight. There was no other place to go for a pint, unless you wanted to drive the twenty miles to Cross Haven. But none of the pubs there were as nice as the Oak, and besides, who wanted to bend the elbow with strangers—not that Aislinn had any intention of lingering. No. It would be in for a quick whiskey and then home for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day, checking the fence lines to make sure none of her flock could escape.

Aislinn entered the pub, hanging her barn jacket on the row of pegs immediately inside the door. As she’d expected, every seat and table were taken. The flickering glow of the fireplace created a sense of intimacy, and as always, the mood was jovial, thick with the feel of kinship and a shared need to relax. She checked her watch: it was still a bit too early for everyone to be in their cups or for the singing to begin. A few of the other farmers sitting round a knotted old table near the fire nodded to her, and she nodded back. That was extent of farmer conversation, which was fine with her.

Aislinn walked the wide, battered wooden planks of the floor and made her way to the bar, ignoring Fergus Purcell, David Shiels, and Teague Daly, Ballycraig’s holy trinity of arseholes. As boys, they’d made her school years hell, always teasing her about being a tomboy and for wanting to be a sheep farmer just like her Da. It took years before she realized it was anger that drove their taunting. She could outplay any of them in football, and when God doled out brains, she’d been far ahead of them in line. Anyway, from the time she’d started giving boys the time of day, she’d only had eyes for Connor McCarthy. More fool her.

“Well, well,” said Fergus, a slip of a man who fancied himself a comedian. “Look who’s here. Lady Muck has decided to grace us with her presence.”

“You’re not joking when you say the word ‘muck’,” David added. “Look at them wellies. Caked with mud, they are.” The threesome laughed.

Aislinn chuckled along with them, even as she fantasized running the three of them down when the eejits staggered home after closing.

“God, you lot have me laughing so hard my sides are about to split!” she exclaimed. She cocked her head in mock wonder. “I was wondering, Fergus and David: how’s your construction business going? I was reading in the Independent just the other day that building is down over sixty percent. That Celtic Tiger you’ve been riding has keeled over and died, ay? Bad luck.” Their faces fell as she turned on a charming smile for Teague. “And you, Teague Daly, you great, fat, balding thing. Have you found a job yet? Or are you planning to live at home and mooch off your poor ailing mam and da for the rest of your life?”

“Feckin’ bitch,” Teague muttered under his breath, hunching his shoulders as he pointedly turned his back on her. The other two goony faced fools were still staring at her, but all it took was one good glare and they shrank, knowing to keep their mouths shut unless they wanted her to dish up another heap of the brutal truth. Gutless twits. Always had been, always would be.

“Evening.”

Aislinn turned her attention to the man behind the bar who’d just spoken to her. So, this was the Yank. Well, the tales were dead on accurate: he was fine looking, with slate gray eyes and a great tousle of dark brown hair. Nice build, which he apparently was proud of if the tightness of his t shirt was any indication. Charming smile.

“Evening,” Aislinn replied curtly.

He extended his hand. “Liam.”

She ignored the gesture. “Aislinn.”

“Call her The McCafferty, that’s her true name,” she heard Fergus mutter.

Old Jack, the balding, pot bellied owner of the bar, jumped in before Aislinn got a chance to shoot back at him. “Shut your piehole, Fergus.” He smiled at Aislinn. “What can I get you, love? The usual.”

“Yes, please.”

She gave Liam the once over. “So, you’re the Yank everyone’s blathering about.”

“I prefer to think of myself as American.”

“Really? I thought all you Irish Americans preferred to think of yourselves as Irish.”

Jack handed her her whiskey.

“Thanks.” She threw the dram down her throat and immediately asked for another. Liam was studying her, and not in a passive way, either. She didn’t like it. “Quit eyeballing me.”

Liam laughed. “Can’t I look at the person I’m having a conversation with?”

“Since when are we having a conversation?”

David leaned over to Liam. “I’d avert my gaze if I were you, lest you want to burst into flames.”

“Enough!” Jack snapped. He put another whiskey down in front of Aislinn. “Hard day?”

Aislinn nodded, appreciative of his asking. “I had to set up the creep for the lambs today.”

“Did Padraig not help?”

“Padraig has been a bit off his game lately,” she replied a little more sharply than she intended. Padraig was part of the reason she was in a bad mood. A hired hand who’d helped her parents with the sheep farm for as long as she could remember, he was closing in on seventy five now and was getting forgetful, sometimes doing the same chore twice, sometimes forgetting a chore entirely. Even so, she couldn’t bear to let him go. Never married, he lived alone in a small cottage on her property. All he had was the farm and her.

Old Jack had moved down to the other end of the bar to take orders, leaving her with the Yank.

“I gather you work on a sheep farm,” Liam said with a friendly smile.

“I own the farm, thank you very much.” Work on it. Of course a man would assume that. “I hear you’re on the lam from the mob.”

Liam blinked, looking at her like he couldn’t quite believe she’d said that.

“Some of the ladies in the town are impressed by that, you know,” she continued.

“Fine with me,” he replied, a swagger in his voice. Oh, this one was full of himself, all right.

“I can’t see what’s so impressive about it,” said Aislinn, sipping her whiskey. “Seems to me only a fool would get mixed up in such things.”

“It’s complicated,” Liam said tersely. She smiled, seeing she’d gotten under his skin and punctured his cool.

“Why’d you come to Ballycraig to hide out?” she continued. “You’re from New York City, no? Why not disappear in Dublin?”

“My people are here.”

Aislinn snorted. “ ‘My people’! God, you plastic Paddys! I suppose you’ll be reconnecting with your roots while you’re here, too.”

Liam just smiled, which was maddening. “Stop flirting with me. You’re making me uncomfortable.”

Aislinn’s jaw dropped. “I most certainly am not flirting with you!”

“I think you are.”

“And I think you’re soft in the head.” She drained her whiskey glass and plonked it down on the bar, adding a glare for good measure. Flirting with him. Ha! Didn’t he just wish!

She strode to the door. “Leaving so soon?” Liam called after her teasingly She ignored him.

“Don’t forgot your broomstick!” Teague added cheerily. She ignored that, too.

She stomped back to her truck, fuming. First the idiocy of the trinity, then the Yank with his flirting rubbish. Addlepated fool. She’d no patience for him, nor for any of the men in this town with their big egos and big talk and not a damn bit of character to back it up with. She’d learned the hard way when it came to the men of Ballycraig. Useless bunch—and now there was one more to contend with, and a Yank to boot.

Flirting with him. She snorted loudly as she started up her truck and roared out of town in the now teeming rain. In your dreams, Yank. In your dreams.

“Anyone care to explain to me what just happened here?” Liam asked, watching Aislinn storm out into the night. He’d noticed her the second she’d walked through the door. How could he not? She was tall, with regal bearing, her long, red hair tangled wildly around her head like some kind of Celtic Medusa. She had porcelain skin, and sparkling green eyes, as well as a seeming “Devil may care” attitude when it came to clothing: a barn jacket, a plain red t-shirt, faded, ripped jeans, and mud caked wellies. A real country girl. A beautiful country girl.

“What happened is you’ve have your first encounter with the McCafferty,” said Fergus as his pals sniggered.

“‘The McCafferty’?”

“Ay, that’s her nickname around town,” Old Jack explained.

“That’s her last name?”

Jack nodded.

“Why the nickname?” Liam asked as he handed a pint of Harp to Grace Finnigan, who owned and operated the small grocery store on the high street.

“It’s nicer than calling her ‘The Bitch,’” explained Teague.

“Did you not feel your balls shriveling as you talked to her?” asked Jack.

“She seemed a little abrasive,” Liam admitted. “But I didn’t feel emasculated.”

“She’s just warming up,” Jack continued with a grimace. “Wait till the next time you meet her. You’ll have to check yourself to make sure your goolies aren’t in shreds.”

“Why was she here alone? Doesn’t she have any friends?”

“Used to,” David sniffed. “Drove ‘em all away with that sharp tongue of hers.”

“She’s fierce,” said Jack. “And mad independent. Used to be a nice girl, but...” he shook his head sadly.

“But what?” Liam pushed. He was completely intrigued.

“Got her heart broken badly,” said Jack.

“She was crazy about this jackass, Connor McCarthy—” David began.

Old Jack interrupted with a snort. “He was no jackass. You were just upset she’d never give you the time of day in the romance department.”

“That’s not true.”

“It is true.” Jack took over the story. “She was seeing this fellow, Connor, for years and years. Lovely guy, gentle. Worked as a mechanic. They finally got engaged. A big, lovely wedding was planned up at her family’s farm.” He took a sip of his beer. “Well, the day rolled around, and didn’t he confess right up there at the altar that he was gay as the day was long?”

“Jesus! That’s terrible!” said Liam.

“Oh, it was, it was. The poor girl was humiliated, not to mention heart broke and furious. And rightfully so.” He lowered his voice. “But ever since that day, she’s had no use for the male sex. No use for anyone, really. It changed her into a hard thing. She’s as soon eat you alive as look at you.” He shuddered.

“Don’t you think something like that would change you, too?” Liam asked.

“Probably,” Jack admitted after a long pause. “But I’d like to think if it were me, I’d reach out to others, rather than drive them away.”

“Doesn’t she have any family?” Liam asked.

“One sister, Nora, who skeddaled out of town as soon as she turned eighteen. She went to England to go to university in London. Married to some richy rich stockbroker. She and Aislinn aren’t close. As for her parents, Doris and Bert”—he shook his head sadly— “they were killed about six months ago in a car crash. Awful, it was, God rest their souls.”

Liam wasn’t surprised to hear it. The Irish were lunatics behind the wheel, even on small, winding country roads where two cars could barely pass each other. Combine that with some people driving drunk, and the fatality rate from auto accidents was unbelievable.

“Drunk driver?”

“Of course,” said Jack. He drained his beer. “Well, that just added another devastation for her, didn’t it? She was dead close to her old man. They worked the farm together. Now she runs it with Padraig.”

Teague laughed meanly. “A right coffin dodger, he is. Old as dirt and losing his wits, at least that’s what I hear. Grace Finnigan told me he came into her shop the other day asking for tinned peaches, and when she handed them to him, he insisted he’d asked for pears and then wound up going home with three packet of crisps and some fags instead.”

“Sad,” said Jack. “He’s a lovely oul fella.”

Liam couldn’t imagine the double blow of being left at the altar, followed by the death of both parents. He might have handled it differently, but God knows she’s strong. A lesser soul would have been demolished.

“How far out of town is the farm?”

David narrowed his eyes. “Seems to be you’re asking a helluva lot of questions about The McCafferty.”

“Just curious.”

“A bit too much,” said Jack, beginning to look alarmed. “You fancy her, don’t you?”

“Maybe.”

“Like she’d have you,” David sneered. “She won’t even give the time of day to an Irishman. What makes you think she’d soften her heart for a Yank?”

Liam just rolled his eyes. From the minute he’d arrived in town, he’d had to deal with animosity from these three clowns who seemed to think they were Ballycraig’s cocks of the walk.

“Yeah,” Fergus chimed in. “You heard her: you’re a plastic Paddy. We all know it. On the lam from the Irish mob, my arse. You’re one of them rich Yanks over here looking for your roots.”

“A rich Yank depriving an Irishman of a job,” added Teague, gesturing at the bar.

“I hate to tell you gobaloons, but Liam has years of bartending experience,” said Jack, coming to Liam’s defense. “His parents own a pub in New York City.”

“So that’s a reason to install him here at the Oak before giving me a shot?” Teague shot back heatedly.

“Teague Daly, it’s no secret to anyone in this town that you’ve got about as much drive as a Brit,” Jack said bluntly. “I’ve no doubt that if I’d hired you in this job, within a fortnight you’d be moaning on day and night about how hard it is.”

His friends laughed.

“Feck you, Jack,” Teague hissed.

“The truth hurts, ay?” Jack teased.

Teague gave him the old two fingered salute.

Jack put a hand on Liam’s shoulder. “Listen to me. I know that under the mud The McCafferty is a gorgeous piece of womanhood, but if you’re thinkin’ of trying to tame her, don’t waste your time.”

“You make her sound like a horse!”

“A horse would have more luck with her,” Teague muttered.

“Truly, I wouldn’t waste your time,” Old Jack repeated solemnly. “She’ll chew you up and spit you out—assuming she’d even let you close to her.”

“I bet you’re wrong.”

Old Jack thrust his head forward as if he hadn’t heard Liam correctly. “What did you just say?”

“I said, I bet you’re wrong. I bet I can break down her defenses and get her to go out with me.”

David, Fergus, and Teague howled with laughter.

“Christ, will you listen to the ego on it!” said David. “You Yanks! You all think you’re Superheroes!”

“It’ll never happen,” said Fergus, shaking his head. “Never in a million years.”

Liam flashed a confident grin. “Wanna bet?”

Old Jack’s eyes lit up. “What are we betting?”

“If I win, you double my wages. If I lose, you don’t have to pay me for a year.”

“You’re on.” They shook on it.

“See what did I tell you?” said Fergus disgustedly. “No wages for a year? He’s a rich Yank! He’s hiding from the taxman, not the Mob.”

“You’re going to lose this wager,” Teague said to Liam. “You wait and see. And then you’re gonna come crawlin’ back here with your tail between your legs—and believe me, that’s all you’ll have between your legs after The McCafferty finishes with you.”

“We’ll see. Now: anyone need a refill?”

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