Emerald Skies

 

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Introduction

I don't even know what I plan on doing with this, all I know is it's here. I'm not even sure if I'll keep it updated, but read if you like.

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Laura Cordero

Hey Samantha, I've picked your book to be featured as an Editor's Choice :) Good job.

Chapter One

The wind blew at her dress, but she barely noticed. Pulling her blonde curls over to the side so that she could see as she made way her towards the cliffs, keeping her blue eyes locked on the horizon, Rosemary slipped and slid against the jagged rocks jutting out of the tall, unearthly green grass that bowed over to the will of the wind.

Somewhere behind her, her friend was calling to her, but Rosemary took no notice. She had waited years for this moment and she was not going to give it up because of a little wind.

Her foot caught on a rock and she stumbled, but she caught herself before she hit the ground. Behind her, she heard her friend cry out in fear, but still, Rosemary ignored her.

What did Lizzie know anyways? Rosemary thought with annoyance as she righted herself and continued on. Lizzie hadn’t been the one to make a pact with her mother to see the Irish cliffs when Rosemary had been thirteen. And she was here now and she was not turning away.

Finally, after stumbling way more than walking, Rosemary made it to the edge, careful to keep enough distance between herself and the sheer edge, and she just stood there, letting the wind whip her hair in her face and tear at her dress. It seemed silly now that she wore a dress, but the day was beautiful and the sun was shining warmly down on her and the sky was a pristine blue with the fluffiest white clouds Rosemary had ever seen.

Somewhere in the distance, Rosemary could hear a ship horn and she smiled to herself. Her mother would have loved to be standing there next to her.

When she’d had her fill of the ocean and cliffs, Rosemary turned back and made her way cautiously back to Lizzie, who was standing in great agitation by their rented car.

“You’re insane,” Lizzie said angrily as she wrenched open her door while Rosemary skirted around the hood and to the passenger side. She was starting to feel more at ease sitting on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road.

“I was fine,” Rosemary reassured her. “It’s just a little wind.”

“And a lot of rocks,” Lizzie snapped back as she turned the engine.

As Lizzie pulled the car back onto the road, Rosemary turned back to get one last look at the cliffs and could have sworn she saw a woman who looked an awful lot like her mother standing near the cliffs in almost the exact same spot Rosemary had been standing not five minutes ago.

Shuddering at the sight, Rosemary looked away and settled back in the leather seat as they headed back to Doolin.

“What were you thinking, going out there?” Lizzie finally said after a tense ride back to the bed and breakfast, Glasha Meadows. “You could’ve fallen.”

“But I didn’t,” Rosemary sighed, resting her head against the cool window as she watched the sparse buildings pass. There were a few people out and about and most of them, she could tell, were tourists, like them.

Lizzie pulled into the parking lot and shut the car off.

Rosemary jumped from the car and shut the car door, wanting desperately to slam it, but it wasn’t the cars fault that Lizzie was being overprotective.

Without waiting for Lizzie, Rosemary stalked into the cool interior of the bed and breakfast, greeted the lady behind the counter as friendly as she could manage, and headed straight for the room she shared with Lizzie.

Plopping down on her bed, Rosemary pulled her fingers through her knotted hair, but it was no use. The only way the knots were coming out was if she brushed her hair or took a shower and if she brushed her hair then she would have a bigger problem on her hands than knots.

Opting for the shower, she hopped in before Lizzie even entered the room and took her time, luxuriating in her brief moment of peace as the hot water relaxed muscles she hadn’t realized were tensed.

Long after she heard Lizzie’s arrival, Rosemary finally cut off the water and got out, toweling herself off as slowly as she dared before wrapping the towel around herself and striding out into the room where Lizzie sat in a chair by her bed, phone in hand and brow furrowed as she checked up on her social media.

“Anything good?” Rosemary asked bravely as she dug through her suitcase for clean clothes. She wanted to wear her dress again and even contemplated it while she waited for Lizzie to respond.

“Paul is getting married,” Lizzie said gruffly. Lifting her head and phone at the same time, she held out her phone to Rosemary, who moved around the beds to take it. “Apparently he and Sarah got pretty serious while we trekked across Ireland.”

Rosemary snorted and handed the phone back before gathering up her clean undergarments. She decided she was just going to put her dress back on as there was really nothing wrong with it except for the potent smell of wind clinging to the fabric, mingling with her favorite perfume.

Lizzie turned her back while Rosemary dressed quickly and turned back round as Rosemary was zipping up the dress.

“I wanted to go to for a walk before dinner,” Lizzie announced as Rosemary ran the towel through her hair. “Were you up for it?”

Straightening, Rosemary nodded. “Sure. I feel like I can never get enough of this place.”

“Agreed.” Lizzie got up and stretched. “I’ll meet you downstairs, then?”

“Fine.”

Rosemary watched Lizzie go and when the door closed, she sank onto the edge of her bed and looked out of the window.

Their room overlooked a vast field bordered by rocks and, every morning, she would walk to the window and watched as the world awoke, sometimes to bright sunshine, others to an onslaught of rain.

They had been staying at the Glasha Meadows bed and breakfast for near two weeks now, longer than they had stayed anywhere before, and they both knew they needed to keep going but something kept them there. Rosemary supposed it was the cliffs themselves, but Lizzie suspected it was more to do with the homey feel of the place.

Whatever the reason, they had yet to leave and their ninety day visa was nearly up. They needed to get going before they were forced from the country altogether.

Rosemary joined Lizzie a few minutes later and, after bidding farewell to the lady at the counter, the two stepped out into the bright afternoon

Standing still in the parking lot for a moment, Rosemary closed her eyes and lifted her face to the heavens, letting the sun soak in before Lizzie pulled her forward towards the narrow road.

“Are there any other castles nearby?” Rosemary wondered as they started down the road.

Lizzie shook her head. “There are only two in Doolin. The rest are too far to walk.”

Rosemary frowned slightly. “Surely not. There’s castles all over the place here.”

Lizzie lifted an eyebrow and glanced down at Rosemary’s shoes. “Let me rephrase – too far to walk in those shoes.”

Rosemary’s face burned. She hadn’t considered the walking aspect when she slipped her feet back into her flats, but it was too late to turn back now. Instead, the two ended up walking the well-worn path to the Doonmacfelim Castle and settled themselves in the grass as they watched the tourists milling about, taking pictures and posing with the old, crumbling structure.

“We have to go home soon,” Lizzie said after a while.

The sun was beginning to set and the lady who owned the bed and breakfast, Mrs. McMurrogh, did not tolerate tardiness.

Getting to their feet, Rosemary brushed herself off and the two set off back to the bed and breakfast.

“I know,” Rosemary said as their feet struck pavement. “But I really can’t bring myself to leave.”

“Well, we have to,” Lizzie said sternly. “We’ll leave tomorrow morning, visit some more sites, but our ninety days are up in eight days, Rose. We’ve got to get going if we want to see more than just the Cliffs of Moher.”

Rosemary turned away, feeling her eyes sting with tears that had no business showing up.

“Before we go,” Rosemary said as the bed and breakfast came into view, “we’re making one last stop at the cliffs.”

Lizzie groaned.

“And then we’ll go on,” Rosemary went on, ignoring Lizzie. “Just give me that one thing and then I’ll follow you the rest of the time in Ireland.” She held up her pinky even though it was something they hadn’t done since middle school. “Promise.”

Lizzie stared at the finger, sighed in resignation, then wrapped her own around Rosemary’s and held tight.

***

“Goodness me,” Mrs. McMurrogh said, bustling about as Lizzie and Rosemary ate their breakfast of fried eggs and sausage. “Well, I knew you said you didna know when you’d be leaving, but I didna expect it to be so soon.”

“And we are sorry about that,” Lizzie said sincerely. “But we’ve only got eight days left of our visa. We’ve got to get going if we want to see more of your country.”

“Yes, yes.” Mrs. McMurrogh waved a distracted hand. “Very well. We’ll have you checked out by tea time.”

“Hopefully sooner,” Rosemary muttered under her breath as Mrs. McMurrogh scurrying from the room and into the adjoining kitchen.

“C’mon,” Lizzie said, getting to her feet. She picked up her glass of orange juice and drained it. “Let’s get packed and ready to move on. I want to be out of here by lunch.”

By eleven thirty, they were checking out and by twelve, they were on their way back to the Cliffs of Moher for one last look before heading north.

As Lizzie parked the car in the same spot as the day before, Rosemary climbed out and headed up the path towards the cliffs. It was still windy, but not nearly as windy as yesterday, though she was still in a dress, albeit, a different one.

Yesterday’s dress was a bright yellow and orange, today’s was a muted blue with a scooped neck, thick straps, and stopped just above her knee. It was also made of chiffon and, therefore, any time the wind blew, she had to glue her hands to her legs so as not to give the world a view of her bottom.

“Are you coming?” Rosemary shouted over her shoulder at Lizzie.

“I’m thinking about it,” Lizzie shouted back.

Lizzie was deathly afraid of heights and Rosemary knew that being at the edge of the cliffs was terrifying for her. Lizzie had braved the trip twice and Rosemary hardly expected Lizzie to join her, so she extremely surprised when she looked over her shoulder and saw Lizzie tramping through the grass and over rocks to catch up.

Lizzie and Rosemary were as opposite as night and day.

Where Rosemary had blonde, curly hair and loved sundresses, Lizzie had straight brown hair and stuck to jeans and a t-shirt. Rosemary always wore elaborate makeup where Lizzie put on foundation, eyeliner and mascara. Even their personalities were different.

Rosemary had no problem making new friends and was always bubbly, but Lizzie stood in the corner of any room that was filled with people and had a dour expression on her face that kept people away from her except for the few brave souls who dared try to speak with her.

The only thing they could agree on was movies and their desire to travel.

It was hard, of course, to scrounge up money to do it, and it took years to even plan the Ireland trip, the first of what they hoped was many. They had plans to see England and Scotland, then move on to France then maybe Spain and Portugal. They wanted to see all of Europe then maybe India or Morocco or maybe even China or Japan.

They still weren’t sure, but all they were sure of was that they wanted to see the world.

Rosemary waited until Lizzie caught up before starting towards the edge again.

The first time they had gone, Rosemary nearly cried.

She had sank down onto her knees and wept silently. Lizzie had tactfully gone down a few paces as if to admire the view from a different angle so that Rosemary could have a moment to herself.

Rosemary hadn’t lost her mom to cancer or any other illness. It hadn’t been expected, she had had no time to prepare herself. One moment, Rosemary was sitting at the kitchen counter while her mother brewed coffee and the next, she was being pulled from school by her father and driven to the hospital.

The woman who had hit Rosemary’s mom had been texting. She had had her head down, eyes glued to her screen, and hadn’t noticed that she had drifted into the other lane. Rosemary’s mom had slammed on her breaks, her hand pressed down on her horn, but it was too late.

The woman rammed into her mother and her mother had smacked her head against the steering wheel, not once, not twice, but three times as the cars collided. Rosemary’s mom’s car rolled once and landed on its roof.

Her mother had died later that day and Rosemary felt as though she was looking at life through a window, as though someone else was moving her arms, was walking into that church where everyone wore black and the saddest expressions she had ever seen.

The next eight months had been foggy and had moved in slow motion. She had forgotten what it felt like to laugh or to smile; she had even forgotten how to play piano, the reason she was going to Julliard that autumn after she graduated.

Being in New York had awoken something in her, had brought her back to life. And suddenly, she was able to play again and was performing in concerts and even had a few solo performances by her junior year.

But she would be graduating next year and this summer before she was truly being faced with the real world, a world without a constant stream of teachers telling you how to play a song you could play in your sleep was something she wasn’t certain she could do.

“What are you thinking about?” Lizzie asked as they stood feet away from the edge.

“The future and the past,” Rosemary answered honestly, eyes squinting against the bright sunlight that glinted off the sea stretched out before them.

“You’ve had a lot of offers already,” Lizzie reassured her. “I’m sure you’ll be just fine.”

“As exciting as recording an album of my own compositions sounds, I don’t think I can do it,” Rosemary confessed. She ran a hand through her hair, annoyed that she had left her hair tie in her purse, which was in the car.

“You’ll be fine,” Lizzie said complacently. “And just think – you’ll be asked to play for movie composers!”

“I think I’d like to do that one day,” Rosemary said thoughtfully. “But I think I’d like to stick with romance films. I’m not much an action or horror film composer. I don’t have the ear for it.”

Lizzie laughed and looped her arm through Rosemary’s. The two stood there for what felt like an eternity before Lizzie relinquished her hold on Rosemary and started back for the car.

“You coming?” Lizzie called back when she realized that Rosemary wasn’t following.

“Give me a few more minutes,” Rosemary said without turning to look at Lizzie, “and then I’ll meet you at the car.”

She could almost hear Lizzie grumble in agitation, but Rosemary could not have cared less.

She was standing there at what felt like the edge of the world and wanted nothing more than to savor it for as long as she could.

Settling down in the grass and pulling the skirt of her dress over her knees, Rosemary closed her eyes and drank it all in, the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs below, the birds screeching overhead, the wind teasing her hair and tugging at the hem of her dress.

“Well now that is a pretty picture.”

Rosemary’s eyes snapped open and she scrambled to her feet as the young man with reddish brown hair approached, an amused smile tugging at his full lips.

He wore a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and tattered jeans and worn boots. His hair was on the longer side, but not so long as to reach his ears. It was parted slightly to the side in accordance to the wind and, even though he startled her and she wanted nothing more than to leave him behind, she could not help but begrudgingly admit that he was attractive.

As her heart rate settled, she spotted the canvas in one arm and the easel in the other with a medium sized bag thrown over his shoulder.

“Are you a painter?” she asked, humored.

He grinned, revealing perfectly white, straight teeth.

“What gave that away, eh?” he wondered, laughing a little. “Was it me canvas or me easel?”

“Er, right.” She gestured half-heartedly towards the canvas. “Stupid question.”

He frowned slightly, cocking his head to the side. “You’re American,” he noted and Rosemary smiled awkwardly.

“What gave it away?” she countered, pulling a hearty laugh from the stranger. “Was it my accent or by forwardness?”

“S’ppose it was your accent,” he said, still chortling as he set up his easel before placing the canvas on it and pulling out brushes, paint, and a pallet.

He started sketching out something on the canvas and when Rosemary went to leave, his hand shot out. “No!” he exclaimed. “Go back where you were standin’. I need to get this before the sun moves.”

Perplexed, Rosemary obeyed and moved back to her spot and stared in confusion at him as he worked.

It took longer than Rosemary would care to admit to realize that he was planning on painting her.

“Do you just go around and paint unsuspecting people?” she asked, feeling more than a little flattered.

She saw his shoulders lift – or the one that she could see, at least.

“Not really,” he replied as he got the paint out and began mixing it. “Only the ones that I think need to be captured in that moment.”

She smiled at that. “And what moment did you see with me?”

He peered around the canvas, his expression serious. “Fear. Hope. Longing. It was all there, on your face. I couldna resist.”

Feeling suddenly cold and exposed, Rosemary turned back towards where Lizzie was standing by the car and was relieved to see that she was on the phone, talking animatedly and, therefore, oblivious to the fact that Rosemary was currently being painted by a complete stranger.

“Since you’re painting me,” Rosemary began, finally looking back at him, “we ought to introduce ourselves.”

His hands were moving furiously over the canvas and in the light of the sunlight, she could see colors blossoming against the blank canvas.

“I’m Rosemary Sloan,” she said then waited for his response. When none came, she let out an annoyed huff of breath and tried again.

“I heard you the first time,” the man said. “Hold still until I’ve got your face and then you can talk.”

Irritated, Rosemary let her mind drift and it wasn’t long before he finally said, “Brady Callahan.”

“What?” Rosemary said, completely nonplussed.

He sighed in irritation and peered around the canvas again. “My name. It’s Brady Callahan.”

“Oh.” She blushed furiously. “Right. well…nice to meet you, Brady.”

“Likewise, Rosemary,” he said before disappearing behind the canvas once more.

Shifting on her feet, Rosemary looked back at Lizzie, who was still on the phone and still did not know that Rosemary was practically being held hostage.

“How much longer will this take?” she asked him after a while.

“Give me a minute,” he replied distractedly.

Looking away again, she waited a beat then – “Will I get to see the finished product?”

That had him practically knocking over the painting.

“The finished product?” he repeated, looking furious. “This isna a product! This is art and art is not something to be bought and sold by callous men and women in an auction house!”

Rosemary held up her hands in a show of surrender, which seemed to calm Brady down.

“Sorry,” she said quickly. “I just…I wanted to know if I would get to see the end result.”

“I would need to actually have a phone number, place of residence,” Brady said, sounding as though he was smiling. “I canna just send you a picture of it, you know, without having some way to contact you.”

She lifted an eyebrow in annoyance. “So you just go about the cliffs and paint unsuspecting people and never tell them? Or you do and you never let them have the finished painting?”

“It’s not always painting,” he told her. “Sometimes I sketch them. And sometimes, I’ve given them the finish thing. But most of the times, I keep them and maybe sell them if someone likes them enough.”

“And no one gets offended that you’ve painted them?” she asked him, disbelief coloring her voice.

“I’m sure they do,” he replied lightly, “but I don’t care. I paint what catches my eye.”

“And I just happened to catch your eye?” Rosemary said with a laugh. She looked back at Lizzie, who had, at that moment, replaced her phone in her pocket and turned to find Rosemary.

Even from her distance, Rosemary saw Lizzie’s eyes widen and then she was rushing back towards the cliff and Rosemary felt relief flooding through her. But just as Lizzie was approaching, Brady stepped back, looking proud.

“There!” he exclaimed. “I’ve managed to get you done, now all I’ve to do it take this home and work on the rest of it.”

He stepped around the canvas and easel, looking excited as Lizzie approached, clearly winded, and said, “Would you like to see, Rosemary?”

Curiosity getting the better of her, she followed him around to the other side of the canvas and stared at the girl on the cliffs.

Her dress was the exact same shade as Rosemary’s, her hair as curly and windblown as hers, but that was all she recognized.

She looked, not sad as Rosemary knew she had looked when Brady spotted her sitting on the cliffs’ edge, but hopeful and as though there was some secret that she was hiding.

She wasn’t sitting, but rather standing, and the wind was tugging at her dress while one hand tried to keep her hair from blinding her.

The background was done quickly, but she had a feeling that Brady came to the cliffs so often that he could probably paint it in his sleep.

“Impressive,” Lizzie said dryly as one hand clamped down on Rosemary’s upper arm. “But we’ve gotta go. See you.”

“Wait,” Brady called out, but Lizzie was dragging her away and she followed, though she couldn’t stop herself from looking over her shoulder one last time at Brady, who was still standing with brushes and pallet in hand before his unfinished painting.

“Why didn’t you walk away?” Lizzie demanded angrily as she pushed Rosemary towards the car.

“I tried,” Rosemary insisted as she climbed into the car, “but no one has ever painted me before. I wanted to know how it would look.”

It was a lie, of course, but Lizzie did not need to know that.

Lizzie snorted derisively as she turned the engine and whipped out onto the road.

“From now on, no more strange men painting you on the cliffs,” Lizzie demanded as the cliffs fell into the distance behind them.  “No matter how romantic it may seem.”

Rosemary looked back in the side mirror and saw the tiny speck that was Brady still standing on the cliffs with his canvas and felt oddly upset that she would never see how the painting turned out.

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Chapter Two

Rosemary stood outside in the falling twilight while, in the pub behind her, she could just make out the sounds of cheers as the last minutes of a football game played on the small television inside.

Digging the toe of her shoe into the dirt, she crossed her arms over her chest as a chilly breeze fluttered over her, tugging at her blond locks and teasing the hem of her skirt.

She had grown accustomed to Lizzie’s teasing about how she always wore dresses and skirts, but it had never bothered Rosemary. She enjoyed looking nice, even if she really had no reason to look it.

The pub door opened and Lizzie strode out, adjusting the strap of her purse on her shoulder, her eyes scanning the crowded parking lot for Rosemary, who pushed off the wall of the pub and gave a little shout.

Lizzie jumped a little and squinted in the dying daylight at Rosemary, who had been standing under the only light outside.

“The owner said there’s a bed and breakfast just a few miles up the road,” Lizzie informed her as they made for their rental. “It won’t be cheap, especially not so late at night, but it’s better than sleeping in the car.”

Rosemary shrugged her shoulders and dropped into the passenger seat while Lizzie eyed her curiously over the top of the car.

“Are you still thinking about that guy from the cliffs?” Lizzie wondered as she got in the car and turned the engine before flipping through the stations for anything that resembled the music from home.

When Rosemary didn’t respond, Lizzie sighed and whipped out of the parking lot and onto the road, the headlights flashing over an ancient looking stone footbridge.

“Jesus, Rosie, it’s been four days,” Lizzie reprimanded. “We have four days left and you’re still more interested in some stranger who painted you than seeing Ireland.”

Rosemary maintained her silence, keeping her eyes on the silhouettes of trees and houses with windows twinkling with light as they sped through the countryside.

“Belfast is only a few hours away,” Lizzie went on, sounding more and more annoyed as the silence stretched on. “We can visit tomorrow and see the Harland and Wolff shipyard where they built the Titanic and Olympic.”

“Fine,” Rosemary said with a sigh.

“That’s it?” Lizzie asked, irritated. “That’s all I get? ‘Fine’? Jesus, you’ve got to get your heads out of the clouds, Rosie. You’re going back to Juilliard next month and you won't graduate because you’ll be thinking about that damn boy.”

It wasn’t just that she was thinking about Brady. Rosemary felt oddly deflated now that she had stood on the edges of the world itself with the wind in her hair and skirts and looked out over the glittering sea, just as she and her mother promised they would. But she wasn’t with her mother and she had seen it now. She had stood there and there was nothing left for her to do except go home and move on with her life.

The feeling of completing such a monumental yet simple task was simultaneously overwhelming and anti-climactic.

Had she expected to see her mother standing beside her or heard her voice?

Lizzie had allowed Rosemary to have her moment on the cliffs but then they moved on and now Rosemary had no idea what to do next.

Ireland was beautiful, there was no doubt about it, but now that her task was complete, Rosemary wanted nothing more than to get back on a plane and go home to Ohio before heading off to Julliard.

They had found the bed and breakfast not far off the road, a quaint little thing that was more of a glorified cottage that had been added on to so that more rooms could be available to potential guests. The gardens, in the light of the moon, looked gorgeous and well-maintained.

As Lizzie and Rosemary went back to the car for their suitcases after paying for a room, Rosemary could hear the bubbling of either a fountain or a stream, she couldn’t tell. But it added a certain charm to the already charming place. She half expected to see fairies floating above the flowers and shrubbery, watching as Rosemary and Lizzie walked inside.

Rosemary hardly slept that night and no matter how long she tossed and turned, she could not get comfortable in the unbelievably soft bed she was lying in.

Rolling so that she could look out of the diamond-paned window, she stared at the twinkling stars and luminescent moon until she – finally – felt her eyelids grow heavy.

***

They crossed over the River Lagan and Rosemary pressed her nose against the window as she took in all the shipyards and docks. Beside her, Lizzie was singing along quietly to a song that sounded more Celtic than pop and Rosemary had to resist the urge to roll her eyes.

If she wasn’t careful, Lizzie was going to adopt an Irish accent and join the locals every night in a pub to watch football with a pint in one hand and the other hand raised in a fist with a cry of triumph on her lips as her team scored the winning goal.

They had both wanted to come to Ireland, but they had had different reasons for wanting to. Rosemary still was not entirely sure what Lizzie’s was aside from simply seeing the country itself and all the glorious, ancient sites it had to offer.

Lizzie, still singing along, merged left and swung down an empty road where a blue sign screamed Titanic Quarter.

Above the tops of the thick trees rose a bright yellow steel beam with the black letters H & W emblazoned along the top of it.

Feeling oddly jittery, Rosemary sat a little straighter in her seat.

It was different watching the movie, she thought as they rounded the bend and sped past slow moving cars towards the architectural anomaly that was the Belfast Titanic Museum that sat alongside the River Lagan. She had even visited the museum in Branson, Missouri years ago when her family had taken a trip to Springfield for a football game that she could not have cared less to have been to.

The museum had been incredible, but it paled in comparison to what she was seeing now.

It had taken longer than Rosemary would have liked to park, but once they did, she leapt from the car and, pulling on a gray cardigan and grabbing her cross body purse, she moved round the car to stand and wait while Lizzie dug in her purse for her camera.

The camera was a professional one and Rosemary’s excitement tripled.

If there was one thing Lizzie could do and do well, it was take photographs. Of anything.

They came to a stop before a tender boat that used to ferry passengers from land to ship and Rosemary stood contentedly by while Lizzie took her fill of pictures of the restored boat.

She wanted to go on board and see it all up close and personal, but she resisted and the two headed up the street to the museum.

By the end of the tour of the museum, which Rosemary found to be leaps and bounds better than the museum back in Branson, she and Lizzie stepped back outside, the smell of salt and brine and city mingling together in the warm summer air.

“So,” Lizzie said as she stowed her camera away and her adjusted her purse, “where to now?”

Rosemary shrugged, her eyes glued down the road where she knew the Titanic slipway was.

“C’mon,” Lizzie said, exasperated as she grabbed Rosemary’s arm and gave a soft tug forward.

She stood at the rail, looking down at the slipway in awe.

It had actually sat there, its propellers feet from where she stood. She would have had to have craned her neck back to see to the boat deck, for the funnels, she knew, would not have been placed on the ship until it was taken out of the slipway for its fitting out.

Rosemary was surprised with how much she had retained from her brief yet thorough research she had done on the ship in her senior year of high school. The paper had been for history and she had been on a kick with the movie itself and so she had thought it best to put it to use.

Lizzie came to stand beside her and leaned heavily against the rails, her eyes fixed below.

“Tell me about it,” she said simply.

Rosemary took a deep breath and began spouting off everything she could remember, from the moment the keel was laid to the sea trials to the crew and officers. She rambled off numbers about height, weight, passengers and crew.

When she paused to take a breath, Lizzie held up her hand, laughing a little.

“I didn’t expect you to remember all of that,” she confessed, grinning widely as she lowered her hand to her side as she turned her body to face Rosemary, who was still looking at the empty slipway.

“I didn’t either,” Rosemary admitted somewhat sheepishly. “You go on. I’ll catch up with you in a minute, okay?”

Lizzie eyed Rosemary curiously, but she eventually shrugged it off and slipped around Rosemary and headed down the crowded pathway and disappeared into the crowd.

Sighing, Rosemary stared out over the tops of the buildings towards the sky filled with the fluffiest white clouds she had seen yet, and let her mind drift.

What had it been like to watch the ship rise up before you? What had been like to know you had been part of creating the largest ship of its time? Had those who had helped lay her keel and hull been allowed inside to see the staterooms and dining saloon? Or had they been forced to work outside or in the third class areas the whole time?

“I’ll be damned.”

Rosemary spun round, heart in her throat and hand on her chest as she searched for the voice that should not have been so familiar.

Her eyes found him immediately, standing with his hands in his coat pockets and a stunned expression on his face.

“And here I thought you would be back in America by now,” Brady Callahan said, his shock slowly melting away to give way to genuine pleasure at seeing her.

“Er, no,” Rosemary said, feeling slightly awkward. She dropped her eyes and trailed her hand along the warm metal of the rails. “I’m still here.”

“And that charming friend of yours?” Brady prompted, coming to stand beside Rosemary. He leaned casually on the railing a few feet away from her and fixed her with a captivating smile. “Is she here, too?”

Rosemary cleared her throat, her eyes scanning the crowds hopelessly for Lizzie. “Ah, yes, she is. Somewhere,” she muttered under her breath.

“Seein’ the sights before you go?” Brady pressed, inching closer, his smile momentarily gone.

“We are.” Rosemary took a step back. “This was our last stop.”

“That’s a shame,” Brady said, looking away, a smile tugging at his lips.

Reluctantly, Rosemary stepped forward as curiosity got the better of her.

“Why?” she asked, sounding breathless and hating herself for it.

Just as she was beginning to notice that they were inches apart now, Brady turned away to look back towards the road, his elbows propped up against the rails and his legs crossed at the ankles. He looked absurdly handsome, standing like that, with the wind coming off the sea tugging at his hair. There was a shadow of stubble across his jaw and his eyes were squinting against the sunlight.

Glancing sideways at her, Brady said, “There’s a stone circle not an hour from here. I can take you there, if you like.”

Of all the things they had seen, Rosemary and Lizzie hadn’t yet seen a stone circle. There hadn’t been any near the Cliffs of Moher and they really hadn’t strayed far from the cliffs since arriving in Ireland nearly three months ago.

“Aw, c’mon,” Brady pressed eagerly as he pushed away from the rail to come to stand beside Rosemary, who fought a grin. “I’d love to show ya.”

Rosemary was fighting the urge to laugh.

“What?” Brady asked, noticing her smile. “What is it?”

“I have a friend here,” Rosemary reminded him. “I can’t leave her here.”

“Sure ya can,” Brady insisted, stuffing his hands back inside his bomber jacket. “I’m sure she’ll understand.”

“We leave Ireland in two days, Brady,” Rosemary reminded him and she watched as his face fell. “If she misses any stone circles, she’ll never speak to me again.”

Brady sighed then groaned. “Fine,” he said, ripping his hands from his pockets to run them through his reddish brown hair. “Fine, she’s invited. But hurry up. It’s best to see the stones at sunset.”

After a quick tour through the Titanic dock, Rosemary pulled Lizzie back outside to the front of the slipway where Brady was still standing, waiting for them.

Upon seeing Brady, Lizzie stepped away from Rosemary, an accusatory expression on her face.

“What is this?” Lizzie demanded, eyeing Brady distrustfully. “Why is he here?”

“Ran into him,” Rosemary hastily explained. “Look, Liz, he knows where there’s a stone circle.”

“There’s plenty of stone circles around here,” Lizzie practically shouted. “It’s Ireland. It’s kind of what they’re known for, Rosie.”

Behind Rosemary, Brady chuckled.

“Rosie,” he repeated under his breath.

“Shut it,” Rosemary snapped at him before turning back to Lizzie, her expression pleading now. “Come on, Liz. We have to go see them.”

“No.” Lizzie shook her head, her expression resolute. “If you want to see them, then you’ll have to go with him.”

“Lizzie,” Rosemary said softly. “Don’t be like this. Come see them. Please.”

“No.” Lizzie crossed her arms. “I’ll let you know what hotel we’re in. See you later, Rosie.”

With that, Lizzie turned on her heel and disappeared, leaving Rosemary standing alone with Brady behind her, chortling as Lizzie stalked off.

“You’ve gone and made her angry,” Rosemary said waspishly as she rounded on Brady, who seemed to be enjoying the situation.

“Yes, and you’ll make it up,” Brady said, beckoning Rosemary to follow him. “Now let’s go. It’s truly magical, seeing the stones at sunset.”

It only really struck Rosemary how foolish she was being when Brady stopped beside a sleek, gleaming black car and slid inside.

She didn’t even know Brady in the slightest. All she knew was that he was a painter and just happened to be in Belfast at the same time as she was.

Feeling more secure in herself knowing that there was pepper spray in the bottom of her purse, Rosemary climbed into the car beside him and reveled in the leather seats and vanilla scented interior.

The car purred to life and Brady slipped into the road effortlessly.

“Tell me about yourself,” Rosemary said to Brady, if only to fill the silence that was only broken by the strains of a violin playing on the radio. “Like why you listen to classical music.”

“Helps me think,” Brady answered simply. “And I love the sounds of violins. I tried to play once, when I was a kid. Never worked out and I switched to painting instead. I found that I was much better at that than music.”

They quickly left Belfast behind and Rosemary immediately felt guilty at leaving Lizzie in the hotel alone.

But she had chosen to stay behind, Rosemary reminded herself. And in any case, they had one more day left. They could see the stones tomorrow.

“What about you?” Brady asked as the city gave way slowly to country. “What do you like to do when you’re not being a tourist in Ireland.”

“I play piano,” Rosemary replied. “I’m graduating from Julliard this coming semester.”

Brady let out a low whistle. “Damn. That’s impressive, Rosie.”

“Don’t ever call me Rosie,” she said and Brady clamped his mouth shut, though it did nothing to stop the smile pulling at the corners of his lips. “Only Lizzie can call me that.”

“Fine,” Brady said, an apologetic look on his face. “Fine. I won’t call ya Rosie.”

Settling back in her seat, aware that her skirt was riding high on her leg, she tugged it back down, crossed her ankles, and chewed on her tongue as she stared out the window.

“My turn for some questions,” Brady said, drawing her attention back to him. “What brought you to Ireland?”

“It’s not exactly a simple answer,” Rosemary said hesitantly. “I made a promise to my mother that we’d see Ireland together.”

He frowned slightly and glanced at her, his brow furrowed. “But she’s not here?”

Rosemary shook her head, feeling tears prick her eyes. “No,” she said, “she’s not here.”

She could sense Brady’s hesitation to broach the topic and so she decided, as always, that it was best to simply get it over with.

“When I was about eleven, my mom and I were watching some documentary on Irish castles,” Rosemary began as the sun began to sink in the sky, “and there were more than a few that were on the edges of cliffs. One in particular sat near the Cliffs of Moher and my mother and I sort of made a promise to go there together one day, to stand on the cliffs and look out over the sea. But the year before I graduated high school, she was killed in a car accident. Now that I’m about to graduate from Julliard, Lizzie wanted to take me to Ireland so that I could do what my mom and I promised each other so long ago. That’s why we’re here. She’s just along for the ride. Well, that and her insatiable desire to travel,” she added with a grin.

“What did it feel like?” Brady asked quietly.

Rosemary frowned. “Sad,” she finally said, “and happy. I was sad that she wasn’t standing beside me, but also happy that I got to do it for the both of us.”

Brady slowed the car and pulled the car off at a place called The Castle Inn and parked before getting out.

“What are we doing?” Rosemary asked, nonplussed as she got out of the car, looking around for the stone circle. “I don’t see anything out here. Are you sure this is the right place?”

Brady laughed. “We’ve got to walk,” he told her, beckoning her forward. “It’s about a five minute walk from here. Come on.”

More aware than ever that she was not wearing the appropriate shoes or outfit, Rosemary followed after Brady down the narrow street and through a mowed path where the stones – which looked like boulders more than anything – sat in a perfect circle with a small mound in the middle.

The sun was sinking in the sky now, casting long shadows over the earth.

Brady settled down in the grass, drawing his knees up to rest his elbows on them while Rosemary inspected the circle.

“I wonder what this used to be used for,” Rosemary said as she sat down next to Brady as the sun slipped out of sight.

“The general thought is that it was used for sacrifice,” Brady said. He pointed to a rock that Rosemary couldn’t see from where she sat. “There’s a rock over there that has perfectly circular holes in it, which a lot of people think are cup holes.” He shifted slightly and turned his head so that he could see her. “Either way, remains were found here, and whatever they’re purpose, maybe no one will ever know.”

“It’s sort of…enchanting,” Rosemary said as dusk fell around them and a light fog rolled in. “It’s almost exactly how I imagined Ireland before I got here.”

“And it’s not how you imagine it now?” Brady asked and Rosemary turned to say no only to find his face inches from hers.

“I don’t know how I imagine it,” she replied, her brain as foggy as the circle was becoming.

Brady’s eyes kept flicking to Rosemary’s lips and she felt an aching desire she hadn’t felt in a long time come to life.

His hand stretched out and cupped her face, pulling her closer and just as she felt his breath fan across her face, somewhere in the distance, someone’s car alarm went off and they sprang apart.

Hurrying to her feet, Rosemary brushed herself off and, drawing her cardigan closer around her, said, “We ought to get back. Lizzie will be worrying about me.”

“Probably thinks I’ve taken you to add you to my collection of corpses I keep in my cellar,” Brady said with a half-hearted smile as he got to his feet.

Rosemary eyed him worriedly. “That was oddly specific, Brady. Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“There’s plenty I’m not telling you, Rosemary,” Brady said with an easy grin, “but none of it involves keeping bodies in a cellar.”

Uncertainty wormed its way into her mind and the entire walk back to the car was quiet as the world slowly grew darker.

“Maybe I’ll see you again before you leave,” Brady said as they road back to Belfast.

Rosemary kept her eyes on the dark world outside the car. “Maybe.”

“I scared you back there, didn’t I?” Brady asked after a while, sounding contrite. “I was only joking.”

“I know that,” Rosemary assured him quickly.

“Do you?”

She looked at him and found that his eyes were on hers.

“Of course I do,” she eventually said, tearing her gaze away from him.

“You trusted me enough to go with me to see the Ballynoe stone circle,” Brady pointed out. “Do you trust me enough to get you back to your hotel?”

“Yes,” Rosemary said stiffly.

She hated this. She hated how she was constantly afraid to be alone with a man, how she was always afraid of looking at them wrong. She was afraid to even have a conversation half the time for fear that they would take her polite conversation and turn it into wild flirting where all he heard was her begging him to come home with her.

The hotel Lizzie had sent her was a generic hotel and when Brady pulled into its parking lot, Rosemary had her hand on the handle, ready to bolt out, when Brady stopped her, saying, “Give me one more minute, Rosemary, then you can run.”

Not relinquishing her hold on the car handle, she faced Brady with a set face.

“And you can knock the warrior expression from your face,” he added with a smirk, but when she didn’t, he sighed then opened his glove compartment and dug around for a moment before retrieving a crumbled napkin and a chewed pen.

Scribbling down numbers, Brady then handed it to her and said, “This way, you hold the cards. This is my mobile number. Call me if you like, text me, whatever. But that way, you decide if you want to get in touch. Alright?”

Rosemary took the napkin, glanced at it and the numbers scrawled on it in black pen, then stuffed it into her purse.

“Right.” She opened the door, letting in a chilly breeze that ruffled her skirts and sent gooseflesh erupting all over her skin. “I’ll see you, then, Brady.”

“Have a safe trip back to America,” Brady said, sounding sincere.

“Thanks,” she said awkwardly before climbing out of the car and shutting the door.

It wasn’t until she was inside the warm lobby of the hotel, glancing over her shoulder one last time, that she saw Brady’s car drive off.

After checking in, Rosemary stood at the elevator and pulled out the rumpled napkin and stared at the numbers.

She held the cards, she thought, weighing the napkin in her hand, and if she wanted to call Brady Callahan, then she would.

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