Roisin O’Connor walked into Pat’s Irish Pub on an unseasonably chilly late-March day. It had been a year since she’d last been there, but the place still looked and felt exactly the same. It was homey and welcoming, much like the family who owned and operated the place.
Hunky Tristan waved to her from where he was restocking a few of the top-shelf liquor bottles in preparation for the evening. She’d had the hots for Tristan since the first time she met him, but nothing had ever come of it, and now, he was married. Off the market and, by all accounts, happy with his new wife. Or so his sister, Keira, had told Roisin when she’d called about this weekend’s booking.
Roisin hadn’t been back to Pat’s Pub since last year around this time, when she’d been booked as the special entertainment for a pre-St. Pat’s party. That night had turned into one she’d never forget because she’d met a guy. A man like no other she’d ever met before.
They’d spent one wild night of passion together, but they’d both had to leave in the morning—he to an overseas deployment, and she back home to New York. They’d been ships passing in the night, but she’d never forgotten him.
She’d never done a one-night-stand before or since, despite the rather loose reputation many of her fellow musicians had earned. Roisin was much more circumspect. She’d dated one respectable guy at a time for years, but she’d been coming off a bad breakup when she’d crossed paths with Lieutenant James Bowan, US Navy, and she had succumbed to the temptation of a night in his strong arms, all too easily.
She’d felt a bit tawdry the next day, if she was being honest with herself, but that same honesty demanded that she acknowledge no regrets. She’d had one hell of a night with a handsome man who had treated her right. She always sort of suspected that, if circumstances had been different, they might’ve started dating—even though he was a Baltimore native and she a Long Island girl. They could’ve probably found some way to make it work. Maybe.
But as things stood, he’d had to go back to the Navy and she back to her life. Perhaps it was better this way. She had good memories of her walk on the wild side, and maybe…just maybe…he thought of her fondly whenever he heard an Irish tune.
Keira caught sight of her at that moment, bringing Roisin’s thoughts of last year to an abrupt end. The next hour was spent setting up her gear and getting ready for the night ahead. She had a set list, which included some special requests, and she did a quick sound check to be sure all was well before ducking out to dress and put on her stage makeup, which was only a bit heavier than the little she wore normally.
With her fair complexion, it was too easy to go overboard, yet she needed some color on her cheeks to counteract the harsh stage lighting. It was a delicate balance she’d learned years ago—the fine line between looking good on stage and looking like a cheap hooker. She had a couple of nice dresses in her minivan, still in the dry cleaner’s wrapping. They’d have to do for the weekend, since the rest of her wardrobe was at home.
She was here to play at a party the next day, but she’d managed to book two nights at Pat’s to round out her trip. No sense traveling all this way and not making the most of her time. She liked Baltimore. It had a good vibe and great people. Whenever she was down this way, she always stopped in at Pat’s, and she’d known the family for at least a decade.
That’s what happened when you grew up in the Irish music scene. Roisin’s father was in the music business, too, and she’d learned everything from him. He’d let her join his band for gigs when she was just a teenager, and she’d started doing her solo acoustic sets around the time she’d graduated from high school. She’d made something of a name for herself among Irish music fans in the States. Her pure tones didn’t need a big band behind them. Her voice was strong enough to stand on its own, with just a piano or guitar backing it—both of which she played.
It was a bit of a rarity, her one-woman show, but it also meant that she got to keep all the profits. If she’d had a big band like her dad’s, she would have had to pay everybody, which definitely ate into the profits. Her father had encouraged her to go out on her own and take as many of the solo gigs as she could book, though she always had a spot on his bandstand, if she wanted it. Her dad was a generous soul like that.
Stopping at the bar to get a few bottles of ice cold water, she made her way to the small bandstand to get things started. The crowd was still a little light, but the place would fill up soon enough. It was time to get the show on the road.
Lieutenant Commander Jim Bowman walked into Pat’s Pub to meet some friends and promptly stopped short. That voice. Could it be?
He cast his eye out over the thick crowd around the small bandstand, and sure enough, there in the spotlight was Roisin. The girl who had haunted his dreams for an entire year.
He’d never thought he’d see her again, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about encountering her now. Should he go up and talk to her? Would she even remember him? He certainly hoped so, but he wasn’t sure. It had been a year ago, and a lot had happened since.
He’d been promoted and served a year abroad. He’d only recently returned to the States, and he had a big decision to make—whether to re-up for another stint in Uncle Sam’s Navy or retire to civilian life. He honestly had no idea what to do, and he had to make his decision soon.
The last time Jim had seen the lovely Roisin, he’d been home on leave and she’d just been visiting Baltimore to play a gig. Someone had invited her down, paying her to appear at Pat’s Pub for a party they were hosting.
She was a musician, a gifted singer who specialized in music from the Emerald Isle. She was also—as far as Jim was concerned—the one who got away. Barely a day had gone by since that wild night a year ago when he hadn’t thought about her. And now, she was here.
Someone entered the pub behind him and slapped him on the back. His friend, Bill, from work had arrived with two others of their group. This was supposed to be a team-building evening spent with coworkers in a non-formal atmosphere. He wondered what his colleagues would think if they realized he was mooning over the gorgeous songstress, and judged it was probably best to keep that information to himself. At least for now.
Jim followed his friends toward a table in the back with a good view of the bandstand, but not too close. Lydia, the newest member of their team, had snagged the table and already ordered the first round, so all Jim was required to do was say hello, sit down and grab a beer. Thank goodness. He’d been struck momentarily dumb by the shock of finding Roisin back in town and singing in the pub. He’d thought about her so often, but he’d almost begun to believe she couldn’t have been as beautiful or as gifted as he remembered.
He was glad to learn she was. She was everything he remembered and more. She’d matured a little in the year they’d been apart. Her cheeks were a little sharper, her bone structure more defined. Her hair was still the same lustrous dark brown, but cut in a slightly different style. Her dark blue eyes flashed in the stage lights, and her creamy skin looked just as delicious. What he wouldn’t give to taste her again…