Kelly Abell Books

Contemporary Romance


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Hot tempered, Mabe O'Banyon will do whatever it takes to keep the family's Irish pub, Shenanigans, out of the mob's dirty hands. She quickly learns, though, their attorney and the bank will offer no help. So, she calls in the reinforcements--Mara and Meg. She hasn't seen her two sisters for years, but her desperate message brings them running.

Commercial real estate developer, Aaron Shaw has a secret. He arrives in Monticello, FL, expecting to purchase a quaint Irish pub and move on to his next conquest. But the transaction doesn't take place as planned--in fact, it doesn't take place at all. The hardheaded owner--a stunning redhead with curves that don't quit--isn't selling.

With time running out and the mob on their heels, Aaron wants nothing more than to save the woman he's fallen for from impending danger. Mabe is torn between a man she loves but can't trust and the need to hold on to her family's pub. Their choices lead them down a path neither could have guessed

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Chapter One

 

A ray of sunshine warmed Mabe’s eyelids as she stretched her long, thin frame under the sheets. She sighed, still keeping her eyes closed. It was going to be a busy day at Shenanigan’s because it was the first day of the playoffs and the Rays were playing the Sox. The pub would be packed to capacity by the time the game was aired at 2:00. She threw one arm over her forehead, mentally checking off all her to do items for the morning. Rolling over, she eased one eye open just enough to peer at her iPod on the iHome deck. It read 9:00 am. Shit, she’d overslept.

Throwing back the sheets, she swung her legs to the floor, stood and stretched again. Her back was sore from moving cases around in the beer cooler the day before. Damn Paul. Her Irish temper sparked. Thinks he can take the day off when he knew full well he had a beer delivery? Nobody at Shenanigans crosses me and gets away with it. She smiled, planning exactly what she would say to him. Let him run to Daddy, try to get sympathy. We’ll see who comes out on top! Ha!

She shuffled to the bathroom, wearing only a tank with a pair of cotton pajama shorts. Summer in Florida could be brutal, but this morning, her room was blissfully cool thanks to the new AC unit she’d had installed for the house. That had set her and her dad back a pretty penny, but in a house as old as this one, she had to expect things like that. Thinking of Shane as she went to the bathroom, she groaned. “I’ll bet he didn’t get to bed until three,” she moaned. “I’ll never get him up this morning.”

After flushing the toilet, she grabbed her toothbrush. Maybe she’d just let him stay in bed today. Knowing he’d tied on one the night before, he would be hung over and mean this morning. It was probably best just to let him sleep the day away. Even with the crowd at Shenanigans, he wouldn’t be much help anyway. Most days he spent all of his time behind the bar consuming more than he poured.

She sighed. She’d been the only sister who’d chosen to stay behind to deal with their father. He’d always been a drunk, but after their mother died, he’d slid into a depression that only Mabe had been able to cope with. She was the youngest of three girls and the apple of her da’s eye. Maybe that was why she could reason with him when the older two failed.

Still shuffling, she made her way into the hallway glancing toward her father’s room. His door stood open, where she paused a moment, listening for his snores. Not hearing them, she peered into the room. The bed hadn’t been slept in.

“Oh great,” she moaned. “Da!” She listened for his reply as she made her way down the stairs. The house was large, but not so large he couldn’t hear her. “Da!”

On her way down the stairs, she glimpsed each of the senior portraits of the O’Banyon sisters mounted on the wall. Mara was the first and the prettiest. The oldest sister, she was the only blonde of the three. Where that hair color had come from had always been a source of irritation to her father. In a drunken rage, he’d often referred to her as “the bastardess”, a term that hurt Mara tremendously. She wondered how her oldest sister faired in New York, if she was even still there. When she’d stormed out over twelve years ago, Mabe had been certain she’d never see her again. She’d heard through one of the patrons at the pub Mara was now an executive chef in some hoity-toity bistro in Manhattan.

The second portrait was of Meg, the middle child. She was a dark Celt like their mother, but had the pale freckled face of her father. Her blue eyes and radiant smile shown from the portrait as if she harbored some inner secret. She was the only one Mabe had heard from over the past ten years. While she never revealed her whereabouts, at least Mabe knew she was alive. An email would arrive about three times a year.

She never really knew why her middle sister had taken off at the age of seventeen, but she was sure it had something to do with their father. He was the root of most of the discontent in her family. Meg was the sister she’d been closest to. Only twenty months apart, they’d played together most of her childhood, and it had devastated her when she’d disappeared.

The final portrait belonged to Mabe. She grimaced. She’d always hated the portrait. Her fiery red hair could never be completely tamed. She’d tried to straighten it that day for the picture, but the Florida humidity had won out. It stuck out around her head in a mass of curls. Her green eyes looked flat compared to the way her sisters’ blue eyes sparkled. No amount of makeup could cover the freckles she so despised on her pale face. She was what her father had called “red Irish”, and she should be proud as punch.

She huffed at the memory. Not only had she gotten stuck with a terrible name, but she’d also had to suffer all the jokes belayed upon redheads with freckles. Mabe was short for Mabel, after her grandmother. Why the last-born had to be stuck with a family name, she couldn’t have answered, but it was a burden she’d born for years. As a teen, she’d thought about changing her name, but forgot about it as the years went on. Dealing with her mother’s death along with her father’s drunkenness had taken precedence.

“Da!” Mabe called again as she hopped off the bottom step, turning down the hall toward the kitchen.

A sudden bolt of panic shot through her as she spotted the refrigerator door standing wide open in the kitchen. She ran the rest of the way, sliding around the center island. Lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood was her father.

“Da!” She knelt next to him, her knees slipping in the puddle surrounding his head. A large gash scored the back of his scalp. His face was deathly pale. She wasn’t sure he was breathing. She laid her ear next to his mouth and thought she felt a slight movement of air, but she couldn’t be sure.

“Da, wake up.” She shook his shoulders. She shrank back at the coldness of his bare chest. “Oh God, be merciful,” she moaned. She reached for his wrist, feeling for a pulse. There was one, but it was terribly faint. She struggled to gain her footing on the slippery floor and dove for the phone on the counter. She punched in 911, shaking her other hand impatiently while she waited for the operator to answer.

“Nine one one, what is your emergency?” A tinny voice answered.

“I’m Mabe O’Banyon. My father’s fallen, and I can’t rouse him. We’re at 410 Washington Street in Monticello. Can you send an ambulance quickly please?”

“Is he breathing?” the operator asked.

“I think so, but it’s slow, and his pulse is nearly nonexistent. Please hurry.”

She knelt by her father again. What will I do if he dies? I can’t run Shenanigans by myself. She squeezed her eyes closed. How am I supposed to find my sisters to let them know what’s happened? Peering through teary eyelashes at her immobile father, she bit her lower lip, guilt washing over her. Oh God, Shenanigans! It’s one of the busiest days of the year. Da’s depending on me. Who’s going to open the pub? Shit.

“Are you still with me, Mabe?” The operator’s voice jerked her out of her mental stupor.

“Yes, I’m here. Please have them hurry. I don’t think he’s going to make it.”

“Do you know CPR?”

“Yes, but it’s been a long time. What if I make it worse?”

“What could be worse? Put me on speaker. I’ll walk you through it.”

Realizing the validity in the statement, she punched the speaker button on the phone. She thought sirens wailed in the distance. The firehouse wasn’t far from where she lived in town, so it shouldn’t take them long.

 

“Okay.” She placed the phone on the far side of her father’s body away from all the mess. God, there was so much blood. What had he done?

“Position the heels of your hands two fingers down from the sternum. Can you feel it?”

“Yes.” Placing her hands in the correct spot, she locked them together as she’d been instructed.

“Using all your weight, do thirty compressions then tilt his head back and give him two breaths.”

Mabe fought the nausea as more blood oozed from his head while she performed the compressions. Memories of her CPR training came back. She moved to his mouth, checked his airway, blew two breaths. Before she’d started the second set of thirty compressions, someone banged on her front door.

“EMTs! Can I open the door?”

“Shit.” The door was locked. She couldn’t stop what she was doing. “Break it in.”

The lock snicked open, and footsteps rushed down the hall. An EMT knelt next to her.

“We just used the key under the mat,” the tall man spoke. “Here, I’ll take over now.”

She stared at him. “Brent?”

“Hey, Mabe. Scoot on over here now, so we can work on him.”

Brent Scott had graduated high school with her. She knew he’d become an EMT. Occasionally, she’d see him in the pub, but it still surprised her he’d been the one to respond. She sat on her butt with her back to the kitchen cabinet while the two men worked on her father.

“Mabe?”

The voice came from the phone on the floor by her feet. She reached for it.

“Yes, I’m here. The EMTs are here. Thanks so much for walking me through everything.”

“You’re welcome. I hope your father is okay. I’m disconnecting now.”

“Okay. Thanks again.”

She pressed the end button on the phone, watching helplessly as the two men worked. The other man bagged him, while Brent continued compressions, pausing periodically to check for a pulse.

“Let’s get him on the gurney. I’ll work on him on the way to the hospital. Mabe, you ride with us.”

She started to get up and then looked down at her blood stained legs. “I….”

“Grab a robe. Don’t worry about the blood. You can clean it off at the hospital.”

“Okay,” she answered, surprised at how calm she was. She dashed through the kitchen, only slipping slightly on the blood soaked floor, and ran to her room. Grabbing a white terrycloth robe from the back of her door, she pulled it on, sliding her feet into a pair of old flip-flops. By the time she reached the front foyer, the EMTs had her father on the gurney and were bumping it down the front porch steps.

They reached the ambulance and slid her father into the back. The other man, whom she didn’t know, ran around to the driver’s side. Brent climbed into the back. He held out his hand to her.

“Climb in.” He offered her a sympathetic smile. She did, and Brent wrapped his knuckles on the roof three times. “Let’s go.”

The ambulance pulled out of her driveway and began the twenty-minute drive to the hospital in Tallahassee. Mabe stared at her father’s gray face; worried he wasn’t going to make it.