On the run across America from a vengeful shape-shifter, Bannerman “Bann” Boru has only one thing on his mind: keeping himself and his young son, Cor, alive. At any cost. Until he meets Shay Doyle, healer and member of a secret group of immortal Celtic warriors, the Tuatha De Danaan, living in modern-day Colorado. When Cor is injured, Bannerman is forced to accept her help. He quickly realizes that the golden-haired healer is shield-maiden tough and can hold her own on the field of battle with the big boys. And Shay soon discovers that there is more to Bann than meets the eye. Now, with the shape-shifter Cernunnos teaming up with the local pack of Fir Bolgs (Bronze Age creatures with a nasty taste for children), Bannerman, Shay, her wolf-dog, Max, and the rest of the Doyle clan must figure out how to battle one insane god.
Twenty minutes later, Shay closed the door on the dishwasher and started it running. “There. Done and dusted.” She glanced over at Bann who was rinsing out the sink. “Do you want some coffee or tea?” Or me? “Or another beer?”
“Thank you, no.” Bann dried his hands, gazing out the bay window at the back yard partly obscured by driving snow. She joined him. For a moment, the only sound was the soft swoosh of the washer.
“Nice yard, isn’t it?”
Lights were strategically placed to illuminate winding pathways, wooden benches tucked here and there under trees, and, surprisingly, an elaborate jungle gym in the far corner. One part of it was simple and crude and crafted from nothing more than logs and weathered boards, while the other half was modern and complete with slide and even a small trampoline.
“We have a lot of clan gatherings here, so the jungle gym’s a great way to keep the younger children entertained. Cor might enjoy playing on it tomorrow.” She laughed softly. “You know, I treated my first broken bone by that trampoline when James fell off that older section. I was only fifteen, but my master had me set the bone right then and there. I’d been toying with the idea of becoming a Healer, but that sealed the deal for me.”
“Is it difficult? To care for those who are suffering?”
“Sure. But I tell myself to focus on what needs to be done. Do what I can to ease their pain. I can’t imagine myself being anything else.”
“Nor can I. Although I stand by what I said earlier—you’re a fine warrior to boot.”
“Why, thank you, kind sir.”
“And a fine friend.” He looked down. “For the past year, I’ve missed having one.”
Ann’s voice echoed in her skull. I wanted a friend. One who would want me to stand with him, on the field of battle, or in mundane trials of daily life.
Bann hesitated, then continued in a quiet voice. “I’ll admit, ‘tis a bit wearisome being father all the time.”
How about being lover? Shay nodded, afraid to open her mouth, lest her thoughts tumbled out before she could stop them. “Well, I, um, I guess I’ll turn in now.”
“I, as well.”
After turning off the lights, they walked upstairs in an uncomfortable silence. The light from a lone wall sconce cast most of the hallway in shadow. Pausing outside of her closed door, Shay waited, not sure if she should initiate moving it to the next level or leave it up to Bann. The next level being him naked in my bed. It didn’t help that the Knight simply stood there, as if waiting for a sign. Well, do you or don’t you?
Suddenly, the illustration from her book of Brian Boru flashed in her mind. The warrior-king. So, she wasn’t one bit surprised—and was instead very pleased—when the long-son of the High King took a step forward. Then another. Until Shay was pressed against her door, his lips and body just brushing hers.
“I misspoke earlier.”
“A-About what?” Shay locked her knees to keep them from shaking.
“I misspoke earlier,” he repeated, his breath warm on her cheek. “When ye offered to be a friend.”
“Aye. While I will always be proud to name ye friend, I wish for you to be more.” A hint of uncertainly crept into his voice. “If I am being too bold, then—”
“Shut up and kiss—.”
Before she finished speaking, he captured her mouth, his body’s length measuring hers. While one hand cupped the back of her head, the other groped behind her, searching for the knob. The door flew open. They stumbled backwards into the dark room. Only a quick move on Bann’s part, slapping his free hand on the doorframe while he supported Shay with the other, kept them from falling on their butts in the middle of the carpet.
Shutting the door behind him with his heel, Bann broke off the kiss long enough to murmur in her ear. “I dinna plan for this.”
“Me either. But sometimes, two people simply find themselves attracted to each other and— Oh.” She stepped back and gestured toward his groin. “You didn’t plan for this. No worries. You forget I’m a Healer.”
“Of course. See, one of my tasks is to instruct our teens when they hit puberty. Back up what their parents tell them. Hold on a sec.” She stepped around him to the bathroom and flipped on the light. Hoping she still had the box of condoms from last month when she lectured a young cousin about safe sex—actually, the girl’s case, unsafe sex—she opened a drawer in the vanity and rummaged through her supplies. Yes! After checking the expiration date, she pulled out a plastic-wrapped packet, paused, then grabbed a second one. Before leaving, she lit a scented candle and carried it out with her, turning off the bathroom light with an elbow.
She placed the candle on the dresser. The flame added a magical glow to the room as did the aroma of clean beeswax and jasmine; she noticed Bann had drawn the curtains closed. “All set.” She held up the condoms.
Bann looked at them, then her. An eyebrow went up. “Only two? Why, I’m insulted.” He began walking toward her.
“My, aren’t you cocky.”
“In more ways than one.” He reached behind him and pulled the T-shirt over his head with one fluid move, then flung it aside. Still walking, he raked his hair back with both hands.
“Hey, isn’t that my job to undress you?” She edged backwards to the bed until her knees bumped again the mattress.
“I’ll not engage in foreplay wearing yer uncle’s borrowed shirt.”
“Awkward. And kinky. At the same time.” She held her breath as Bann plucked the packets from her fingers and placed them on the bedside table, then drew her into his arms. His bare torso was warm and solid—the two things she liked best in a man.
Then, his lips were upon hers.