Pintrest

Faerie Tale Queen - Chapters 21 - 25 (Unedited)



21

Kieren meandered along RathĂșnas dark sand beach. The beaches at home are a, well, sandy color. I’ve been on white sand beaches in the Caribbean, and I’ve seen pictures of black sand beaches, but I have never seen sand like this. She stooped down, picked up a handful and let it trickle through her fingers. If it were black, I’d say it was made from malachite, but it’s not black, it’s, it’s mahogany. No, that’s not right. Black cherry perhaps? I don’t know, all I know is I have never seen anything like it before.
After she dusted off her hands, she stood and slowly surveyed the area. I like it here, I feel so at peace. She watched a waves break on the shore and recede, leaving the sand shimmering in its wake, the sun reflecting off the unusual prism-like particles. The seabirds dove into the surf or scurried along the water’s edge foraging for their next meal. The cliffs at her back stood as mighty sentinels guarding the village beyond from any threat by man or nature.
Slowly she made her way along the coast to an outcropping of rocks. Perched upon one of the rocks was a woman painting, and Kieren headed toward her.
“Good morning,” Kieren called in greeting.
The woman looked up from her work, shielded her eyes from the sun and smiled, “And a good morning to you as well Your Majesty.”
Kieren laughed, “I’m afraid I am not Queen Bevin, although I have recently been told I do resemble her.”
“My deepest apologies,” the woman said as she moved to get out of the sun’s glare so she could get a clearer look at Kieren. “The resemblance is quite remarkable.” She confirmed and extended her hand, “My name is Brigit.”
Kieren shook her hand, “It is a pleasure to meet you Brigit. My name is Kieren, and before you say it, I have been told that is the name of the Queen’s granddaughter as well. A mere coincidence, I assure you.”
Brigit was fairly certain she knew otherwise, but refrained from commenting. “So, what brings you out to our cliffs today Kieren?”
“A walk, nothing more.” Kieren pointed to the easel, “May I see what you were working on?”
“Of course,” Brigit said as she stepped aside so Kieren could have a better look.
Kieren had expected to see a painting of a seascape, a depiction of the scene before the artist, but instead she viewed a wedding set in the woods. “This is a surprise.”
Brigit laughed, “Thought you would be looking at the ocean did you?”
“Well…yes.”
“This is just my favorite place to paint. Who wouldn’t be inspired with a view as magnificent as this?”
“I know exactly what you mean. I used to do most of my sketches from a windowed alcove overlooking the park at our public library, or if the weather was nice, from a bench in that same park. Unfortunately my alcove is thousands of miles away, so now I’ll need to find a new place which inspires me.”
“Well Kieren, I would be more than happy to share my spot with you.”
“That is very kind of you Brigit and I appreciate the offer, but this is your special place and you shouldn’t have to share it with anyone.” Kieren studied Brigit’s painting a moment longer, “You are incredibly talented. I feel I could step into this painting and be a guest at the wedding. The bride’s beautiful and the groom’s so handsome, but that’s not what draws me in, it’s their expressions. They look so, so…”
“Peaceful?” Brigit prompted.
“Yes, exactly, peaceful.”
Brigit smiled, “Then I have achieved my goal.”
“Are they friends of yours?”
“Who?”
“The couple.”
“Oh, I have never met them, but she is a kindhearted soul who teaches young children and he is brave man who serves and protects, so they deserved to start their lives together peaceably.” When Kieren looked at her strangely, Brigit added, “You’ll understand in time.”


22

Kieren was sitting at her kitchen table, nursing her second cup of coffee when a knock sounded at her back door. Sebastian rushed in and hopped into Kieren’s lap.
“Since when do you knock?” She said to the cat.
“I can assure you that beast does not have the manners to knock.”
She stroked the cat, “Do you hear what your daddy is saying about you? You’re not a beast are you my sweet boy?”
“Merrowww!” Sebastian complained as he head-butted Kieren’s chin.
“I know baby, I know. But don’t be mad at him, he just doesn’t appreciate you the way I do.” Kieren cooed.
Logan glared at the fickle creature, “A more permanent arrangement could easily be arranged.”
Kieren laughed and nuzzled the cat, “You can stay as long as you like baby.” She laughed harder when her comment was repaid with a sandpapery lick upon her nose.
Logan shook his head, “You two will make a lovely couple.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say Daddy sounded jealous. What do you think?”
“Meee.Owww.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
Logan sighed, “If you two are through, we really should be leaving if you are going to get to see the whole island in one day. The weather’s fine now, but it could change soon without much warning.”
Kieren cuddled Sebastian one last time, then put him on the floor, “Let me just grab my coat and I’ll be ready.”
“A cap and gloves while you’re at it,” Logan called after her as she left the room. “I’ll meet you in the front.”
Logan was standing on the stone drive near two bicycles when Kieren joined him. She eyed the ancient contraptions warily.
“You do know how to ride, don’t you?”
“Of course I do.” She assured. “Doesn’t everyone?”
“You’d be surprised.” He quipped. “So if you can ride, what’s with the look?”
“It’s not my riding abilities I’m questioning.”
“Ach, they may be old, but they are sound and will get us where we need to go. Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.” Resigned, she climbed aboard and they set off.
There first destination was the lighthouse at the southernmost tip of Tallymore, less than two miles from Kieren’s home. After a brief chat with the keeper, Logan and Kieren were able to climb to the top of the lighthouse. From there he pointed out several points where they would be stopping on their journey. He also gave a brief history of the lighthouse as well as a few tales about pirates along the southern shore.
“Another day, when it’s warm, I’ll take you down so we can explore the caves and hunt for pirate’s treasure.”
Kieren wasn’t sure if he was serious or not, so she asked, “You don’t honestly think there’s treasure hidden in the caves do you?”
“There hasn’t been any found yet, but the legends had to have started somewhere no? There are miles worth of tunnels beneath Tallymore, most are still uncharted. Who’s to say what can and cannot be found within them?”
“Fair enough, but I won’t believe it until I see it for myself.”
“Fair enough,” Logan echoed with a nod. “Is there anything else you would like to see while we’re her or are you ready to head to our next destination?”
Kieren took one last turn along the parapet and shook her head, “Nope, I’m good. Lead on Macduff.”
“Surly this day will not be harrowing, for I have not a battle planned.”
Kieren blinked at him, momentarily no understanding the parry, then chuckled, “Many pardons my fine sir, my citation was merely in jest.”
Logan executed a formal bow with his hand across his heart, “Your apology is graciously accepted m’lady. Shall we?” He offered her his arm and they laughed their way back to their bicycles.


23
Their path lead them past a monument erected in honor of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, who had called Tallymore his home for a brief time in the early 1300s. The plaque told not only of his birth and death, but it also told a fable of how one day on Tallymore, Robert the Bruce sat watching a spider attempt to spin a web at the mouth of a cave, but because of the high winds and the rain, the spider kept failing. Until finally, after the seventh attempt, the spider succeeded. The spider’s determination inspired Robert the Bruce to attempt to defeat the dreaded English one last time.
“If at first you don’t succeed?”
“Or so the story goes. So, one more stop before we hit the inn for lunch or are you hungry now?” Logan asked.
“Is the destination between us and the inn?”
“It is.”
“Well then, it would make much more sense to see this place before we eat, wouldn’t it?”
“It would, but if you’re hungry, we could stop after lunch.”
“I’ll live.”
“Alright then.” Logan said as he led the way down the bike path.
The next destination had them stopping at a church on the edge of the town proper. They were greeted with banging and the whiz of a circular saw as they pushed their way through the front doors. He took Kieren’s hand as they navigated their way to the front of the church, “Watch your step. I know it’s a mess right now with the construction going on, but I thought you would want to see the stained glass.”
Kieren stood at the altar, then slowly turned so she could see all of the windows, each one depicting either a well-known bible story one of Jesus’ parables. Her favorite window showed Jesus surrounded by children. The look of love and admiration on the children’s faces was mirrored in Jesus’, the detail was so intricate, Kieren could have sworn she was looking at a painting on canvas as opposed to a window made of colored glass. “Oh Logan, these are exquisite, each one somehow more beautiful than the last. Who made these?”
“No one knows. There is no mention of the windows in any of the church’s records.”
“That’s bizarre. No legends of folktales associated with them?”
“Not a word. Anywhere.”
“So have you come to lend a hand?” A voice boomed behind them and they turned to see Evan Flanagan striding up the isle toward them, “Ach no, I see you brought me something far better than a helping hand. Hello Kieren. It is good to see you again girl.”
Kieren smiled, took his outstretched hands in her and brushed a quick kiss upon his ruddy cheek. “It is good to see you too Mr. Flanagan.”
“Now what did I tell you about that mister stuff?”
“I’m sorry. It is good to see you again Evan.”
“That’s more like it. Mr. Flanagan was my father and I am not nearly that old yet. So tell me, how is it you’ve ended up in the company of my boy here? Did you find us Flanagan men so irresistible you just couldn’t help seeking out another?”
“True, you are quite irresistible, but not exactly. Logan you didn’t say anything to your dad on Sunday?”
“I did.”
“Ach, you told me nothing about meeting Kieren. I would have remembered.”
“Da, what do you mean? We had a whole long conversation about how she arrived and almost fell to her death because I hadn’t finished the deck yet and I forgot to lock the library door. Remember?”
Evan took a step back from Kieren, “You’re Patrick Byrne’s granddaughter?” Kieren nodded. “But you said your last name was Cleary. I’m sure of it. You introduced yourself as Kieren Cleary.”
Kieren frowned at his reaction, “I did, and I am.”
Evan took another step back, “Well then, so you are. Thank you both for stopping by, but I have a lot to do today, so I must be off. Good day to you both.” He turned on his heel and exited the church.
Kieren looked up at Logan and asked, “Did I do or say something wrong?”
Logan put his arm around Kieren and pulled her close, but continued to scowl at the last place he saw his father, “No love, you didn’t do anything wrong. The old man has simply gone loopers. Don’t let him upset you.” He finally glanced at her, “Come on, I’m famished. Let’s go get some lunch.”
As they road nearer to the inn, and Kieren saw some people enter and exit, she stopped her bike.
“What’s up?”
“I don’t want to go in there.”
Logan watched the inn for a few seconds then focused on Kieren, “Why ever not?”
She spread her arms wide, “Have a good look.”
He did then said, “And?”
“And, I’m not going in there looking like this.”
“Ach, you look just fine.”
“Logan please. I don’t feel comfortable. Can we please just go to the pub?”
“Fine, Shenanigan’s it is, but I really don’t see anything wrong with the way you look.” He pronounced. “Come on then, it’s only a block further up.”
“Well look what the wind brought it,” Molly welcomed, “and it looks like you’ve been out in it a while. Your cheeks are all flush.” Kieren raised her mittened hands to her face, and Molly chortled. “I wasn’t saying it as a bad thing love. You look lovely.”
“I told her just as much, but she wasn’t listening to me.” Logan complained.
“Can’t say I blame the girl not trusting a sleeveen like you.”
“Now that wasn’t very nice. You wound me Molly.”
Molly looped her arm through Kieren’s and steered her toward a table. As she did, she whispered to Kieren, “I’m only foolin’ with him. Logan’s as honest as the day is long, and a fine man. But if you ever say I said so, I’ll call ye a liar.”
“Your secret’s safe with me.” Kieren assured.
“What’s all the whispering about?”
“Just some girl talk,” Molly retorted. “Nothing you need to be concerning yourself about.”
“That’s what I was afraid of,” Logan grumbled as he took his seat. “What’s on special today?”
“Fish and chips.”
“It’s not Friday.”
“And who wrote a law I could only serve fish on Friday? Bradan brought in a big haul this morning.” She turned to Kieren, “Ye can’t get much fresher.”
“Sounds delicious, I would love some.”
“Fish and chips it is,” she said and began to walk away.
“And what about me?”
“I know exactly what you want Logan Evan Flanagan,” Molly threw over her shoulder without slowing her stride.
Logan sighed heavily.
Concerned, Kieren asked, “Will you be eating whatever she brings you or does she really know what you want?”
“Oh Molly knows well enough I would never pass up a fresh catch.”
“Then why do you look so dejected?”
“I just hate it when I’m predictable.”
Kieren snorted and quickly covered her mouth with her hands to suppress her giggles, but her eyes danced merrily. She cleared her throat, “If that is the worst thing you are accused of, then you should consider yourself lucky.”
“I guess you’re right.” Logan grinned, “especially where Molly’s concerned.” After Kieren acknowledge his statement with an affirming inclination of her head, he asked, “So have you had a chance to chat with Bevin yet?”
Kieren nearly choked on her water, “What a strange way to put that.”
“Considering we’re in public, I thought my phrasing was quite clever.” He rebuked.
After rolling his statement over a few times, she had to agree. “No, I have not had a chance to speak with Bevin. However, I did speak to four enchanting children who told me I resembled Bevin. They also told me Bevin had a granddaughter. Do you care to wager a guess as to the granddaughter’s name?” When Logan simply shrugged his shoulders, she supplied, “Kieren. That’s right, Kieren. Then last night I spoke with this incredibly gifted painter named Brigit, and she confirmed I bore a striking resemblance to Bevin as well.”
Molly placed the food and two pints in front of them and went to wait on her other customers. Over lunch, Kieren filled Logan in on all the details she could remember from her dreams.
“So what do you think it all means?” He asked.
“Damned if I know.” She groused, “and don’t you dare tell me I’ll figure it out in time.”
“I won’t.” Then he winced, “but chances are you will.”
“Urgh!”
“Ready?”
Kieren took the last swallow of her beer, “If you are. Where two next?”
“The northern lighthouse, and then our very own version of Stonehenge.”
“Any chance we could save the lighthouse for another day considering it’s all the way on the other side of the island?”
“Is your bum getting sore?”
“No,” she insisted, “but it has been a while since I’ve been on a bike.”
“Then straight to Orlagh’s Circle.”
“Orlagh?”
“The golden faerie queen. You’ll understand why it was given the name when you see it.”


24
Kieren was nonplused when she saw the drab grey piles of stone. Logan looked up at the sky and said, “Give it a minute, I promise you won’t be disappointed.” He came and stood behind her, looked at the sky again, then repositioned her slightly.
Ever so slowly the clouds parted allowing the first ray of sun to kiss the far edge of the circle, sending off the first glistening sparks. As the clouds dissipated further and the sun illuminated more and more of the circle, it appeared to catch fire and grow until the circle became complete. The once dead stone now shimmered with golden light and life.
Kieren held her breath in awe. Unable to help herself, Kieren pushed away from Logan and walked to the center of the circle. Logan stood at the periphery and watched her leisurely spin in a circle, eyes closed, face turned up toward the sun, with her arms outstretched. She had not put her hat back on after lunch, so her long, dark, wavy hair fanned out behind her as she twirled.
Logan was enchanted, but he did not want to disturb her moment. He remembered the first time he experienced Orlagh’s Circle. One summer when he was perhaps six or seven, he was staying with his grandparents in the cottage. He had heard their stories about the golden circle and he begged his grandfather to take him. His grandfather finally relented. When he saw it, he pulled loose of his grandfather’s hand and ran straight to the center of circle and spun around, much the same way Kieren was doing at that very moment. He remembered feeling energized, and happy, and powerful.
Over the twenty or so years since that first experience, Logan had found himself at the center of the circle on many occasions; when his grandmother had passed, when his one of his sisters had a serious accident and was in the hospital, after a nasty row with his father. Each time, the circle made him feel better, as if the beautiful glittering stones truly held magical powers, powers to heal his very soul. He was older now, mature, grown, so he no longer held onto fanciful thoughts of magical places, yet he still enjoyed Orlagh’s Circle, and was pleased he could share it with Kieren.
Winded, face glowing with delight, Kieren turned toward Logan and crooned, “This place is magnificent. Thank you so much for bringing me here.”
He watched the smile on her lips suddenly fade and the color drain from her face. Without thought, he ran to her, but as he approached a strange clear bubble formed around her, shielding her from him. He could see the terror in her eyes. He tried to force his way in, but it was no use. He could not breach the shield.
Kieren, with tears now streaming down her face, raised her hand and pressed it against the barrier. Logan mirrored her movement from the other side, and tried to offer whatever comfort he could. The field between their two hands thinned. When their fingers laced, the bubble vibrated, then expanded to encompass Logan as well. He did not question what had happened, simply pulled her into his arms and held her tight.
When his heart no longer slammed into his ribs, he asked, “Are you alright? Are you hurt?” She shook her head, tightened her grip around his waist and buried her face further into his chest. Her body still quaked beneath his hands. “What happened? One second you were so happy and then the next you look like you had seen a ghost.” Then he added as he pushed against the bubble, “and what in God’s name is this?”
Kieren stood on tip toes and snuck a peek over Logan’s shoulder, then quickly buried her face again. He turned to see what had her so obviously frightened. At the edge of the circle, where he had only stood moments before, was an ominous black mist which grew larger and darker as he watched. Reflexively he moved to the back of the bubble, as far away from the looming malevolence as possible.
Suddenly, the bubble began to vibrate again, and the ground began to shake. A high-pitched buzz filled the air. Logan forced Kieren into a crouch and shielded her as best he could. The stones around the circle began to glow. Within in seconds their light became blinding, then culminated in a great flash which shattered the protective bubble surrounding Logan and Kieren.
Then, complete an utter silence. The wind did not rustle through the trees. Not a single bird sang. Logan looked up. The circle appeared as it did when they first arrived, drab grey lifeless stone, but most importantly, there was no longer a mysterious black mist along its edge.
He placed his hands beneath Kieren’s elbows and lifted her to a standing position, “Come on. Let’s get home. I think we’ve had more than enough excitement for one day.”
Without uttering a word or taking a backward glance, Kieren headed straight for her bike, mounted and began to peddle in a homeward direction. Logan followed closely behind.


25

A package awaited Kieren at her front door when she returned, but she walked right passed it and headed directly to her room and a hot shower. It took them the better part of an hour to return from Orlagh’s Circle, and Kieren shook the entire time. She could not ward off the cold, a cold she felt straight to her core.
Logan picked up the package, placed it on the kitchen counter, went to the cabinet, poured himself a shot and threw it back in one swallow. He poured another, brought the bottle and a second glass to the table, sat down and tried to get his brain around what had just happened to them. It made no logical sense. He attempted to come up with some natural phenomenon to explain it, but he fell short.
The only thing he could come up with, as illogical as it seemed, was the circle had protected them from the black mass. Logan sipped his whisky.  At least my hands have stopped shaking. Okay, for argument’s sake, let’s say, whatever that black thing was, it meant to do Kieren and me harm. For some unknown reason Orlagh’s Circle was able to recognize the threat and shield us from it. Then, through some internal power source, it was able to dispatch the threat. Oh, sure, that makes perfect sense. Now who’s gone loopers?
Kieren entered the kitchen in sweats, fuzzy socks and damp loose curls.
“Feeling better?”
 “Honestly?” She shook her head, “not really.”
Logan raised his glass, “Want one?”
“Yeah, I think I would,” she said as she flopped down in the chair across from him. “What the hell just happened out there?”
He slid her glass to her, “I’m not damned sure I know. I could tell you what I think, but I’d rather have your thoughts first.”
Kieren took a sip, grimaced then took another, “Thoughts? None of them are coherent, I can tell you that. One minute I felt a sense of power and joy like I had never felt before, and then, seconds later, I felt a sense of fear like I never felt before. It was even worse than on the path to your house. I knew that thing was out to get me, to get us, and I just had to get away from it.” As the panic rose in her voice, Logan reached across the table and took her hand. “Then I knew I was safe but you still weren’t, and I was so scared. And then you were safe too, but I just wanted that thing to go away. And then, and then…”
“And then everything was back to normal, as if nothing had ever happened, and you began to think you had imagined it all, again.” Logan scootched his chair next to hers and put his arms around her. “It wasn’t your imagination love. As unexplainable as it is, it was real. It happened. I experienced it with you.”
“Then why do I still feel like I’m losing my mind? Like my world is suddenly spinning out of control and I have no idea how to stop it or get off?”
“Because you are, we both are, trying to find a rational explanation as to what has been happening, and there just may not be one.” He kissed her forehead, “Tell you what, why don’t I find something in the freezer, pop it in the cooker, and tonight we’ll watch a movie while we eat. We won’t think about what happened. We won’t talk about what happened. We will simply let it rest until tomorrow. That’s when we can try and piece together what’s been going on. How does that sound?”
“I doubt I’ll be able to stop thinking about it, but I’m willing to give it a try.”
“That’s all I’m asking for.” Logan got up from the table, retrieved the package from the counter and placed it in front of Kieren.
“What’s this?”
He shrugged, “It was on your front step when we came home.”
Kieren eyed the plain brown box suspiciously. As far as she could recall, all the boxes she had forwarded were present and accounted for.
“It’s not going to open itself, love.” Logan said as he opened the freezer door, stuck his head in and began to forage.
“Unbelievable!” Kieren squealed. “That girl is unbelievable!”
Logan poked his head around the door to see what all the fuss was about. “If the past few days are any indication, I think we’ll both be scratching that particular word from our dictionary. So, what do you have there and what girl is unbelievable?”
“Leila, and” She paused while she cautiously removed her gift from its box, “this is what. Doesn’t it look yummy?” She held up the fruit bouquet for Logan to see. “Chocolate covered oranges are my favorite. I even love them more than I love chocolate covered strawberries, and they’re in the bouquet too.”
Logan put the frozen casserole on the counter and said as he walked over to her, “Your friend sent you a house warming if. That was very considerate of her.”
“Not exactly.”
He plucked a grape from the bouquet, popped it into his mouth and picked up the discarded card from the table. “It’s your birthday?” Kieren nodded. “Why didn’t you say something?” She shrugged. “If I had known, we would have done something special.”
“Oh, but you did. I had a lovely day until…” Her face clouded.
“Until what we agreed we wouldn’t discuss happened. Now, none of that. It will wait until tomorrow.” He insisted. “Since it’s your birthday, you get to pick the movie, and I promise not to make any disparaging comments over your selection. And I’ll even make all of supper and clean up afterwards.” He took the fruit basket from her hands and placed it in the center of the table, turned her toward the door and gave her a little nudge, “Off with you, and I don’t want you back in this kitchen for the rest of the evening.”
“But what if…”
“Shoo.”
Kieren laughed, but did as she was told. She was quite surprised to find such a large selection of modern movies in the living room entertainment center. As far as she knew, the house had not been occupied for over twenty years, yet she found newly released title among the lot, and they were Blu-Ray ones to boot.
She made her choice and queued it up in the player, but she did not want to start the movie until Logan could join her. Instead, she flipped on the television and began to surf through the channels. She skipped from one news program to the next, wondering if anyone else in the world had noticed what had happened to Logan and herself. She even watched the weather channel for a bit, to see if any natural event had occurred which would explain what had happened, but there was nothing.
Kieren curled her legs up under her and pulled the afghan over her lap. I don’t know how he can think I won’t think about what happened just because he said I shouldn’t. I wish I knew what was going on, someone who could explain this all to me.
Logan handed her a glass of wine, then sat down next to her. “I have to go back and check on things in about half an hour, but if you want to start the movie, it’s fine with me.”
“No, I’ll wait.” She said and took a sip of wine. “You’re not in there eating my birthday present are you?”
“I may have filched a grape or two.” He confessed.
“You don’t have to steal anything. I am more than willing to share.”
“I won’t be pilfering your birthday gift.”
 “Nonsense. Did you see the size of that thing? I could hardly eat it all myself.”
“Then I will be happy to help.” He smiled and gestured toward the television, “Anything good on?”
“Nothing.”
He noticed what was broadcasting and admonished, “Well what do you expect when you’re watching the news?”
“I know, I was just…”
Logan narrowed his eyes, “Just what?”
“Nothing,” Kieren said as she flipped the channel to a tween program.
“Hmph.” Logan held out his hand. “May I?” When Kieren relinquished the clicker, he punched in a channel and said, “There, that’s just what you need.”
Kieren blinked at the screen, “I need the Muppets?”
“Those are not the Muppets, they are Podge and Rodge, hardly child friendly. Just give them a minute, you’ll see.”
Kieren watched. When Logan laughed but Kieren did not, Logan found himself explaining what Kieren called “Irishisms”.  He patted himself on the back for a job well done, for while he was in the kitchen plating their supper, he could hear her chuckling from the other room.
Dinner was consumed on the couch, under an afghan, watching Letters to Juliet, with Sebastian curled up between them. A week ago, Logan would never imagined being in this situation, let alone actually enjoying it. After a nasty break up a few years ago, he had convinced himself he was not relationship material. Now he was beginning to wonder. True since Kieren, almost literally, stumbled into his world a few days ago, he has come to question all he had believed to be real, but he was also having a difficult time picturing his future without her in it.
As the credits began to roll, Logan said, “I’ll be back in a minute. Don’t move.” When he returned, he entered the room singing Happy Birthday and holding a brownie a la mode with a lit candle sticking out of the top. “Come now, close your eyes, make a wish, and blow out the candle.” Kieren readily complied. She blew out the candle, but before she could open her eyes, Logan gave her a peck on the lips. “There, now your wish will come true.”
“Is that so?” She ribbed.
“On my word.”
“I hope so. This was so sweet of you.” She picked up one of the two forks and stabbed herself a forkful. “Where did you get the brownie?”
“I made it, of course.”
“My, aren’t you just full of surprises. You can bake and you can sing. You have a beautiful voice, you know that?”
“Thank you. The brownies were from a mix, so they didn’t take much culinary magic. As for the singing, well, I was brought up in the church choir, so I have pretty much been singing my whole life, but I am not as good as my father. If you hear him sing, it will bring a tear to your eye.”
“You nearly did that yourself.”
“Ach, it wasn’t my singing, it was the dessert.” He teased as he took his own mouthful. Sebastian pawed at Kieren’s hand, so when she and Logan finished their treat, she placed the plate on the ground so Sebastian could lick it. “You’re spoiling that beast.”
“He just wanted some birthday cake too. Didn’t you handsome?” She crooned as she stroked the cat. Sebastian purred as he lapped up every last trace of ice cream from the plate, but did not reply.
“Well love, it’s getting late, so me and the glutton over here should be going.”
“Oh.” Kieren’s smile faded and she turned her face away. “Okay.”
Logan lightly pinched her chin and brought her eyes back to his, “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. I’m just being silly.”
Logan considered her for a moment, then said, “You’re afraid to be alone in the house tonight, aren’t you?” Kieren looked down, but nodded. “Would you feel better if I stayed?” She nodded again, but still would not look at him. He gently nudged her chin up and kissed her forehead. “I do realize your request for me to stay the night was not an invitation to share your bed. I will be quite comfortable here on the couch.”
Kieren shook her head, “There’s no need for you to sleep on the couch. There are three perfectly good unoccupied beds for you to choose from.”
“Then it’s settled.” He reached down and retrieved the plate from the floor. “After I load the last few things into the dishwasher, you can show me to my lodgings.”
“I can clean up.”
“Aht, it’s your birthday for,” he glanced at the mantle clock, “another half hour, so I insist on cleaning up.” He grabbed their empty wine glasses and headed out of the room. “I will, however, allow you to join me in the kitchen. Your banishment has lifted.”
“Why thank you kind sir.” She quipped as she followed him into the kitchen. She was expecting to find a mess when she entered. She remembered what the kitchen looked like after Paddy had gotten finished cooking, and she assumed all men were probably the same. However, all that was left to clean up were the dishes Logan had just carried in with him.
“You look puzzled.” He said as he started the dishwasher.
She confessed, “I expected to find it looking like a war zone in here.”
Logan raised his eyebrows, “Why on Earth would you expect that?”
“If you ever experienced Paddy in the kitchen, you wouldn’t have to ask.”
“Ah. No, I find it much more efficient to clean as I go.”
“I said it before, you Logan, are a man of many surprises.”
He hung the dish towel on the oven handle to dry, walked over to Kieren, slipped his hands around her waist, pulled her close and kissed her. “You have been quite a surprise yourself, love.”
He lowered his head again. His mouth slanted over hers. She opened up to him without pause. Her hands crept up his chest to settle at his nape. Her fingers twined in his hair. He deepened the kiss, pulled her body flush with his. His hunger for her became blatantly obvious. His passion fueled hers.
On a groan, he broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers.  He panted, “As tempting as this is, I think it best we stop now while I can.”
“I’m, I’m sorry.” She stammered as pink flooded her cheeks.
“Don’t be sorry.” He kissed her lightly. “I’ve been wanting to do that all day. But tonight’s not the night for taking things further, so come, show me where I’ll be sleeping.”