F_ck of the Irish

By: Celia Aaron

The Hard and Dirty Holidays #4




Chapter One



Laurel





“Sheep.”

I shook my head. “Try again. Ship. See? It has the short ‘i’ sound.”

“Sheeeeeep.” Wi screws her lips together, as if puckering will give her the vowel sounds she wants. It doesn’t.

I had been tutoring her for months, and she’d grasped a great deal of the English language and pronunciations, but some words still escaped her. She’d been a fast learner, having come to the U.S. for college with only a rudimentary knowledge of English. Her native Chinese, though, was flawless.

I closed her workbook.

“You’ve almost got it. Keep practicing and I’ll see you on Tuesday.”

She smiled and gave me a slight nod. “Tuesday.”

I leaned back in my chair, my joints stiff from sitting so long and helping her with her marine biology paper. She had a presentation coming up and didn’t want to say ‘sheep’ when referencing the ship she was on when she took part in discovering a new species of sea mollusk.

She tucked a lock of her short dark brown hair behind her ear. “Tuesday. I will have it. Sheep.”

I smiled. “Right, ship.”

“Thank you, Laurel.” She put great emphasis on perfecting her ‘l’ sounds and it showed. I was certain she would have a workable “ship” pronunciation next time I saw her.

“You are very welcome.” I gathered my notebook and stuffed it into my green backpack. “Next time, then. I can find my way out. Go on. I know you want to practice.”

She grinned and nodded again before hurrying out the door. We always met in a study room at the university’s international house. It had become my home away from home ever since I began tutoring.

Now that my day was over, I looped my long blonde hair up into a ponytail and shrugged on my backpack. I needed to get back over to my dorm, warm up a frozen dinner, and work on my translation homework. It was only my sophomore year, but I had my heart set on grad school. Finishing a modern translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses from Latin to English would be my ticket into a prestigious grad school.

I walked out of the study rooms and into the main common area of the international house. Couches and bean bags were scattered around the room, students sitting and talking or typing on their laptops. I scanned the room, looking for a certain student, but Eamon was nowhere to be seen.

I sighed my disappointment and strode to the wide double doors leading into the night. Reaching for the handle, I drew back quickly as the doors swung inward.

Eamon, laughing and looking over his shoulder, barreled right into me. I made a startled squeak and lost my footing. I shot one hand out in front of me as I fell, trying to grab onto anything to stay upright. A large palm gripped my forearm and yanked me forward.

I ended up pressed against Eamon’s chest, his arm around my waist. I inhaled, taking in the scent of his aftershave—a clean, masculine smell.

“You all right?” A deep rumble against my cheek.

I pulled away from him and looked up to his eyes. They were dark blue with a mischievous sparkle. His full lip curled up in a smile, and he held my elbows as he peered down at me. He was a good foot taller than me, and I was five foot four. My heart warmed, sending a shot of pink to my cheeks as he focused on me. I dropped my gaze to the belt of his jeans, which only made me blush more.

I’d crushed on him from afar for months. But I’d never spoken to him, just listened to his lilting Irish accent and peeked at him whenever he wasn’t looking. Something about him called to me, partly good looks, but also something else. He’d caught me staring every so often, each time giving me an inviting smile. On each occasion, I’d fled to my study room or left the international house altogether.

“Laurel, isn’t it, love?” He put a gentle finger under my chin and lifted my face to his. “You okay?”

My lungs seemed to completely deflate. “I, um, I’m fine.”

“I didn’t see you there. Apologies.” His lips were moving but all I could think was Eamon. His name played through my mind on repeat.

“Come on, man.” Noel, one of the British students, punched Eamon in the arm. “She’s fine.”

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