Home > My Life in Shambles(22)

My Life in Shambles(22)
Author: Karina Halle

She clears her throat and spears me with her gaze as she starts to hack away at the carrots. “Now, enough about that. Tell me about her. Valerie.”

“What do you want to know?” I don’t like talking about her when she’s not here. It’s hard to keep our stories straight.

“She’s a looker, she is. Real beauty. If yer mam were with us instead of looking down at us, she’d say she’s like a fine Irish winter day. An old-fashioned kind of woman. Fair play to ye, Padraig. You did good.”

“So ye like her?”

“Very much. She passed the test dealing with me at any rate. She’s smart. Soulful. I trust her with yer heart and that’s the most important thing. You can never be too careful, ye know. Yer successful and handsome, despite those ugly tattoos on yer body and that frightful beard covering yer face. You have money and fame. A lot of women are only after those things, not ye heart. But Valerie … she’s after yer heart and nothing less. And you deserve it, my boy.”

My own heart seems to skip clumsily in my chest, like it’s slowly waking up from a long hibernation. I want what my nan is saying to be true. I want to be able to trust Valerie, not just in this charade but beyond that. But it doesn’t seem possible, not with the way things are laid out before us.

We’ve come back to my hometown to live out a lie.

How can anything real spring from that?

I spend the next couple of hours with Nan, helping out even though she keeps trying to shoo me away, or snacking on her cut-up vegetables, which she smacks out of my hand. I ask about how people in town are since the only people I keep in touch with is my mate Alistair who runs a pub down the road, and she talks and talks. She’s always had the gift of the gab.

Before I know it, the food is cooking away and she’s telling me I better go wake up Valerie so she can come down for dinner.

I finish setting the dining room table for us, then head up the narrow stairs to Valerie’s room.

I knock on her door softly and don’t hear a response.

“Valerie?” I say. If we were actually engaged I would just barge right on in there, but because I’m not sure how comfortable she is with me yet, I don’t want to impose.

“Hey,” I hear her groggy voice. “Come in.”

I slowly open the door and peer inside the dim room.

She’s lying on top of the bed, her scarlet hair spilled out all around her, trying to push up onto her elbows. “My god. I could sleep forever.” She squints out the window and sees the deepening twilight. “What time is it?”

I walk over to her and flick on the bedside light. “It’s almost dinnertime. But if ye need to sleep more, then that’s no problem. I’ll tell them it’s jet lag.”

“Jet lag?” she says. “I thought I’ve been here since before Christmas.”

Oh right. Shite. That would have been a disaster if I’d mentioned that. Already our stories are hard to keep straight.

“Forgot. But I can say you’re sick. I have to say, you’re making it mighty hard not to get into that bed with ye.”

She grins at me, looking both bashful and flirtatious at once.

“I wouldn’t complain,” she says.

Then she bites her lip and that makes me want to do the same.

I lean in and kiss her softly, capturing her mouth with mine.

The feel of her lips goes right through me like a burning arrow and I’m immediately hard as sin, my erection pressing against my fly.

I kiss her with more hunger now, wanting, needing, craving her. How quickly my brain shuts off, along with the charade and the logic, and I just have this undeniable urge to get inside her again. I climb on top of the bed, the mattress creaking under my weight, and prowl over her.

She whimpers as I kiss her, and for a moment I think I’m being too forward, too pushy, that the one-night stand was all that we had. Then she takes her hand and presses it against my cock, as if she’s greedy for it.

“Fuck me,” I gasp out hoarsely, my kiss deepening, hot and wet and starving, my hands going underneath her jumper and squeezing her tits, my desire for her becoming something uncontrollable. In the tiny lizard brain I have at the moment, I’m trying to calculate how we can quickly fuck without anyone noticing.

“Padraig!” my nan’s booming voice echoes from downstairs. “Stop faffin about and get yer arse down here!”

Instant erection killer.

Breathing heavily, I look at Valerie, her hair wild, her lips wet and red, her cheeks flushed. Fuck, she’s so bloody beautiful. I am in such a fucking mess with this woman.

“Faffin about?” Valerie asks, trying not to smile. “Like…” She gestures a jerking off movement with her hand, which is somehow very hot.

I chuckle and smooth the hair off her face. “Not fapping. Faffin. Faffin about means you’re dicking around. Or should I say wasting time. My nan may have a sharp tongue but she ain’t up to date with internet speak.” I pause. “Thank the lord.”

We get off the bed, sort ourselves out, then head to dinner. I pause at the top of the stairs and pull her close to me. “You ready?”

She nods anxiously. “Yes. No.” She shakes her head.

“Don’t be nervous,” I tell her, leaning in and smiling. “Kiss me.”

“Kiss me, you’re Irish?”

“Kiss me, I’m Padraig McCarthy,” I tell her. “Kiss me for luck.”

“Oh, so you’re like the Blarney Stone now, is that it?” But then she quickly kisses me on the lips. “And, I know it’s formal of you to call me Valerie, but since we’re engaged and all, I was hoping you could call me Val.”

“Val it is.”

I grab her hand and lead her down the stairs.

My father is already sitting down at the head of the table, my nan beside him. He looks a lot better than he did earlier, maybe because he’s in a nice flannel shirt and his hair is combed back and he’s high on pain meds. He’s wearing his glasses too, which I’m secretly happy about. I want him to see how beautiful Valerie—Val—is.

“Dad,” I say proudly as I lead Val over to the table. “This is Valerie, my fiancé.”

“So nice to meet you,” she says to him, and because it’s apparent that he’s not going to be getting up, she gives an awkward curtsy.

“What are ye doing that for?” He frowns at her. “I’m only dying, I’m not the king.”

Her face goes red to her roots.

I laugh and squeeze her hand. “If she sees ye as king, Dad, I wouldn’t argue with her.”

His lips curl into what can barely be called a smile. “I suppose I should take what I can get in this house? Well, well, sit down and eat.”

We take our seats on the opposite side of the table. There’s a bowl of simple salad in front of us as a starter, which we all tuck in to, passing each other salt, pepper, and salad dressing.

Val is looking at the two other empty places at the table just as the Major comes out to take his seat at one.

“Ah, salad!” he says, clapping his hands together. “Just like yesterday and the day before and the day before that.” He’s still dressed in his brown suit that looks like it’s been found at the bottom of a thrift store bin.

“You eat it and you like it,” my nan says threateningly.

“What’s that you say?”

My nan closes her eyes, shaking her head. “Merciful Jesus in heaven,” she mumbles.

Then Gail steps out of the kitchen, holding the giant pot of Irish stew my nan had been working on all day.

Gail’s not surprised to see me, so she must have been warned. She looks good, too, if not a little on the skinny side with dark circles under her eyes.

“Howya, Padraig. It’s been a long time.” She says this lightly but I swear I see some bitterness on her lips, like she just sucked on a lemon. “Things good with ye?”

“Yea, things are grand,” I tell her. Which, of course, is complete shite. Funny how we say that automatically even if it isn’t true, which makes all of us liars at some point during our day. “Welcome back to Shambles.”

She gives a wincing smile as she puts the pot of stew in the middle of the table. “I’d say the same to ye but I’m guessing you’re not to stay long.” She takes her seat beside the Major and eyes Valerie. “I heard the good news. Congratulations.”

“What’s the good news?” the Major asks, even though we’d told him earlier.

“Padraig and this lady here are getting married,” she says loudly and in his ear.

“Oh, that’s a fret,” he says. “Fair play to ye, Padraig, she’s a fine thing.” He looks to my father and my nan. “And you two have been keeping it a secret!”

My father is picking away at his salad, ignoring that. I’ve noticed he’s barely eaten any of it.

“So when is the wedding?” Gail asks, scooping out stew into everyone’s bowls.

“Yes, Padraig. When is the blooming wedding?” my nan asks.

I eye Val and she nods, taking the reins. “We don’t know yet. It depends on Padraig’s schedule, when he goes back to play.”

I try not to wince since I may never go back to play. But she doesn’t know that and neither does anyone else.

“So your concussion is all healed up then?” Gail asks. “That was a brutal hit ye took.”

“It was. Very unlike ye to fuck it up like that,” my dad adds. “I still don’t understand what the hell happened.”

“Colin,” my nan admonishes him. “Please, let us eat before ye start mentioning hell.”

“Yer the one talking about the bloody devil all the time,” he grumbles back to her.

“Only because I like to have him on my side,” she says, pointing her fork at him in a hostile manner. “And what’s done is done. No point making the poor boy feel bad, he’s been through enough.”

   
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