I thought St. Patrick's day would be a good time to share a glimpse of two of my characters in a WIP.
Patrick and Mary.
They're not conventional romance main characters. Not in the bloom of youth, they've been around, they know the notes to the score. Ordinary folk.
Mary is dear to my heart, as I know her intimately. And Patrick? He may not be the stunning matinee idol type, but he's the man who---in my real life---I imagine I'd most love to share myself with.
As a little background, I was inspired to create Patrick after the late actor Victor McGlaglen. The big galoot who, in the movies, never really got the girl in the end. Big, rugged, not conventionally handsome but with a huge heart that reflected in his face. My kind of guy.
So, now, let me introduce you to my friends, Mary and Patrick...
* * * * * * * *
To conceal her jangling nerves, Mary gave in to her itch to align the plates and saucers. She shifted them around and her shoulders stiffened, her back tensed. Just say it, Mary Ryan. When have you ever pussyfooted around with your words? With all the composure she could muster, she forced the words from her mouth before having a chance to fly the mental coop. “You know damn well why I’m here, you conceited gombeen!”
Patrick grunted and bent to lean close to Mary, his hands resting on the table—so close, a huge landslide ready to consume her. A grin raised the corners of his lips and fire flashed in the deep-set eyes. “Come out and say it, woman.”
Mary met his gaze. “I’m here because I’m lonely without my babies.” Drawing back, sitting tall in the oak chair, she whispered, “Because I need a man. Because I need a man to make love to me.”
Patrick’s jaw dropped, his wide shoulders slumped and he mouthed the words, “Well, I’ll be damn.”
“You didn’t expect that now, did you?” Satisfied with his startled reaction, Mary allowed her body to relax.
Slowly rising to his full height, his head wagged from side to side and he clasped his hands behind his back, rocking to and fro on his heels. A gentle flame kindled in the smiling eyes. “Well, Mary. I’d be lyin’ if I said I didn’t figure that’s why you came here.” A quick twitch of the mustache. “But I didn’t suppose you’d come right out and say it."
“Why, you lyin’ caffler! I’m a respectable woman and you’d never have good reason to think I’d come to this hole-in-the-wall you call a house for …”
“Then corned beef and cabbage it is for you, woman.”
Patrick nodded and ambled to the stove and pulled an apron from a hook on the wall. With his back to Mary, he wrapped it around his thick waist and fumbled with the strings at his back. The big fingers fidgeted, trying to tie a knot.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Had this big peeler always been so handsome? Mary’s gaze took inventory of his backside – the tanned neck offset by shining black curls, strong shoulders, solid back. Very nice arse. Peering around the table to glimpse his feet, she gasped and the red-hot flush sped to her head again. Holy shite. What did they say about big feet? Or was it big hands? Or both?
Mary eased to her feet and stepped gingerly to stand behind Patrick. The muscles in his sides contracted under her fingers when she confiscated the ornery apron strings. Jumping Jehosephat. Her hands hadn’t come ashore on a man’s body in a long time. Convinced the pilot light in her furnace had gone out years ago, it came as a mighty shock to feel a wee fire beginning in her belly. She breathed deep and braced her shoulders. Drawing as close as she dared, Mary sniffed his shirt. Bay rum. Patrick’s body, his scent, brought the sharp, stabbing ache to her again. His size – the spicy fragrance – reminded her of Salvatore.
Patrick’s fingers brushed hers, sending shivers up her arm. He slid his hand away and lifted the lid on the cast iron pot. Immediately, the heavenly aroma of corned beef and cabbage wafted to Mary’s nose and the comforting smell—tangled with his after shave lotion—dragged a sensation from deep within her gut. An emotion she thought she’d never know again. Desire. With a hard tug, she tied the strings and took a step back. Her hands dismissed the signal to retreat and, before she could stop the impulse, she touched his waist.
“Mary?” The tall body went rigid and the lid clanged in the pregnant stillness as he gently placed it on the pot. With her shaking hands still resting on his sides, he turned to face her. His fingers crawled behind him on the stove, fumbling for the knob, and he turned off the burner.
Her gaze reluctantly traveled up the length of his shirt to meet his eyes. Why, even in an apron, the big galoot was a regular Victor McGlaglen.
“Aye, Patrick?” Now or never, Mary Ryan. Every card in Mary’s emotional deck lay face-up, exposed – grief, loneliness – longing. And he stood so close, his body so warm. Or was it the stove?
“Are you sure about this?” His large hands slipped to her hips and the thumbs traced the seams of her skirt.
Her belly lurched. Damnation. Why the hell had she worn a girdle? Could he feel it? Jerking her stare downward, her eyes involuntarily detoured at his crotch.
“I’d not have touched you if I wasn’t sure.” Merciful saints preserve us. Mary shot her eyes up from the unmistakable bulge beneath Patrick’s apron and focused on his throat – his tanned, soft throat. Sweet Jesus, forgive me, your perverted servant. “Didn’t I tell you I needed a man?”
A soft chuckle rippled through the beefy frame and he bent, his lips lingering near hers. “Aye, you did.”
Just as his mouth closed in on hers, she pulled back. “And you’d best keep the fire burnin’ under the corned beef and cabbage. You’ll not have your way with me then send me home unfed.”
Their lips finally met. The sweet taste of a man’s kiss after so long sent Mary’s pulse into speedy laps. His body closed in, so soothing, so powerful. What could she do but melt into him like warm candle wax? And her nipples. Where had Mary’s nipples been all these years? They suddenly revived from their long hibernation, chorusing their delight at the male touch and stinging, straining against the lace of her brassiere.
Sucking in a deep gulp of air, Patrick straightened. “I’m not one of them young arses who takes a lady in the kitchen.” The sharp eyes threw a glance to the hallway. “May I take you to my bed, proper?”
“Aye.” Need consumed her. She’d worry about the girdle and how to gracefully get out of it later.
Mary followed Patrick to his bedroom, his hand clutching hers as if to assure she wouldn’t bolt. His nervousness seemed to have evaporated and he led her to the bed with a confident swagger.
A monstrous oak bed held court in the center of the bedroom, adorned in a simple white chenille bedspread—a lonely bed, waiting for a woman. A twinge in her gut told Mary she belonged here, that good loving would be had under those sheets.
“I’ve a robe in the bathroom that you can use,” Patrick offered. Standing beside the bed, he dug his hands in the apron pockets.
Good. A true gentleman. He hadn’t started undressing in a horny flurry. Mary nodded and stepped into the bathroom, which was a huge but homey space with immaculate cobalt tile. Spotting a shuttered cabinet, she sighed with relief to find a place to store her faded brassiere, slip and panties—and the God-forsaken girdle. She wouldn’t have to engineer her body out of it while he watched.
The huge cotton robe smelled of bay rum. Mary hugged it around her, burying her face in the worn folds. Again, pain wrenched her heart, thinking of Salvatore, missing her precious boy. But she needed Patrick. For now, just for this tiny space in time, heartache would have to be tucked away.
Oh, dear God. Maybe Patrick O’Bannion was no gentleman after all. Reposed on the bed, propped on mountains of white-as-snow pillows, he stretched, naked as a jay-bird. A leviathan, long and virile, a bull in rut with an impressive erection that matched the excitement in his flashing eyes. He seemed at ease, ready, his arms crossed behind his head.
“Join me, Mary.” The soft brogue caressed. He patted the space beside him where the covers had been turned back.
Clutching the lapels of the robe, she hesitated. Mary hadn’t been intimate with a man since 1933. She remembered it well because she’d celebrated the end of Prohibition—a love-making marathon with a hot-headed young Italian hoodlum. He’d been gunned down the next day by a rival crime family. The tragedy convinced her that sex and Mary Ryan were a cursed coupling, so she channeled all her energy into duties for Salvatore and young Carlo, leaving intimacy and physical pleasure behind.
“Come now, woman, don’t be bashful,” Patrick urged. “I’ve dreamed of you for so long, in my mind I already know how beautiful you are naked.”
“Well, Patrick O’Bannion, you’re about to see how dreams don’t begin to compare to bitter reality.” Pulling the robe open, she slid out of it and let it pillow to the floor.
Patrick sat up, his eyes wide, touring her body. He blinked and stared harder. “Why, Mary,” he said. “A vision from heaven, you are.”
His gaze lingered on her breasts, warm and firm as if he’d touched them with his hands. Her nipples puckered under the intense, appreciative stare and she reckoned he could see that, judging by the flash of white teeth.
Balancing on the fence between bolting in fear or joining him, she decided to make an effort to test the man. Mary turned up her nose. “Well, you’ve not much hair on your chest. I’m partial to a hairy man.”
With a thundering roar, Patrick fell back onto the pillows. When he stopped laughing, he cocked a brow and smiled. “Then get your handbag and be on your way, woman.”
His humor passed the test. Besides, the brawny body promised comfort and Mary desperately needed its sanctuary. Climbing onto the bed, she said in her most affected tone, “I’ll bear with your smoothness. I’m already here, after all. No sense in leaving now.”
“No, Mary. No sense in leaving.”