EXCERPT: Breakaway by Deirdre MartinTuesday, February 7, 2012 13:00
Deirdre Martin is back with her wildly popular New York Blades series, this time taking readers on a journey away from hockey and all the way to Ireland. Breakaway pulls you into the story of the NHL’s only Irish player, Rory Brady, and the one and only woman for him, Erin O’Brien – but he has a lot of groveling to do now that he’s home again.
Since Rory left her behind after making it big in the states, Erin has finally come into her own, determined to make her dream of leaving the small town of Ballycraig at the earliest opportunity. But when Rory unexpectedly returns, plans have a way of changing, no matter how hard she fights against it. Will he work his magic on her again, claiming the forgiveness he needs and the love he knows is still there? Or will Erin stick to her path and make it without the big lug?
Erin O’Brien was everyone’s favorite in Ballycraig, while Rory Brady was the town’s golden boy: the local lad who moved to America and became a professional hockey player. Rory promised to return to sweep Erin away to the life of her dreams in New York. But the bright lights and late nights turned his head and he never came back.
Two years later, Rory realizes he’s made the worst mistake of his life. Heading back to Ballycraig, he’s confident that all he needs to do is flash his winning smile and Erin will fall back into his arms. But Erin’s moved on.
Racing the clock, Rory needs to prove to her that the man she fell in love with is still there. But can happy-go-lucky Erin risk it all and give another chance to the man who broke her heart?
Lord, please don’t let there be any truth to the saying, “This is the first day of the rest of my life,” thought Erin O’Brien, as she shoved guests’ dirty sheets into the massive washer in the basement. Ever since her parents had purchased Ballycraig’s sole B & B, she’d come to feel like an indentured servant. Helping her mother run the place was supposed to be temporary until they found “the right kind of help.” Apparently, no one in the village was right for catering to the PJ Leary fanatics who made up the bulk of the visitors. Months had crawled by, and Erin was still here, relegated to the less glamorous tasks: laundry, housecleaning, dishes. The worst part was, she did it all for free, out of what mother liked to term, “family unity.”
Unity? I guess da and Brian are exempt.
She envied her brother: Brian had left town as soon as he got married, an IT job waiting for him Liverpool. It was a great career opportunity, except it left their father all alone to run Ballycraig’s sole auto shop. For years they’d worked side by side. Now her poor father was working with a very green assistant mechanic, who’d already come close to crushing himself under a number of cars.
“How’s it going down there?” her mother called from the top of the basement steps.
“Fine,” Erin called back, peering up at her mother’s creased, anxious face. “Dad did a great job fixing the washer. Could be a second career for him.”
“No need to be cheeky.”
“Nevertheless, watch yourself.” Her mother checked her watch. “The first of the weekend guests will be here in three hours. Would you be a love and go to the supermarket in Moneygall for me?”
Erin’s shoulders slumped. “Mam—“
“Asking too much, am I?”
Erin felt guilty. “No, it’s just you’ve more than enough time to go to the market yourself. You’ll be back here and baking before they’ve even arrived.”
“Assuming the buses are running on time.” She looked fretful. “Normally, I wouldn’t ask you to shop on such short notice, love. You know that. It’s just that I’ve got so much to do…. ”
Lord help me, Erin thought. I really need to get my license. If I don’t, I’ll always be hostage to a bus timetable, or worse.
“Relax, all right. You know I’ll do it.”
“You’re a good girl, Erin.”
“A patsy, more like,” Erin grumbled to herself. Her mother was still peering down at her with a distressed expression. “Mum, calm down. I just said I’d do it, so why do you still look so upset? All you achieve by fretting and wringing your hands is driving yourself—and everyone around you—mad. You’re going to give yourself a stroke, and for what?”
“I know, I know,” her mother agreed distractedly. “It’s just that I want it all to be perfect, you know?”
“Perfection doesn’t exist.”
Her mother snorted. “Oh, so now you’re a philosopher, I see. You should be down at the pub with that Holy Trinity of Dimwits, sitting at the bar, each one thinking they’re the next Stephen Fry.”
Erin felt the sting of criticism but refrained from saying what she was thinking: I can never win with you. She didn’t want things to escalate, especially since her mother could go from zero to fifty in the rage department in seconds. Still, she did have a right to defend herself.
“I’m not being philosophical,” she replied calmly. “I’m just trying to point out that you drive yourself mad unnecessarily.”
Her mother didn’t respond. Erin could see this conversation was going in one ear and out the other.
“I’ll leave the list for you on the kitchen counter, all right?”
“You’re a good girl,” her mother repeated.
Too good, Erin thought. She took comfort in knowing her escape plan was firmly in place and that she would, sooner or later, be free. She double checked behind her to make sure the washer was still tumbling properly, and headed up the stairs.
“Chores” done, Erin headed up to her room, locking the door behind her. She and her parents now occupied the top floor of the guest house, the sale of their family home and some land having provided the bulk of the money to buy the B & B.
She caught her reflection in the mirror atop the scratched bureau from her childhood, and paused. You’re no great shakes, she told herself. Nothing special to look at. But in the career she’d be pursuing, looks didn’t matter.
She glanced around the tiny attic room, her eyes caressing the reproductions of some of her favorite artwork that she’d pinned to the walls to help fend off dreariness: Frida Kahlo, the bright reds of Henri Matisse, fields of mood lifting bright yellow sunflowers by van Gogh, Irish landscape artist Henry McGrane’s gentle impressions of spring. Erin was pursuing an art history degree online with the Open University. Most people would think it impractical, even odd. Erin didn’t care: she loved art, and it was something she’d pursued off and on while Rory was away at college. Now that Rory was out of her life, she could do as she wanted, no more putting her dreams on hold for that selfish bastard. No one knew she was almost done with her degree but her best friend, Sandra.
Rory Brady. Just thinking about him made her feel like a twit. Ballycraig’s local idiot, that’s who she was, too stupid to tell when she was being played. How many times had she replayed their years long relationship in her mind? Why did she insist on torturing herself? The story always ended the same way: her life in tatters and his looking brighter and brighter, the first Irish born man playing in the NHL, for the New York Blades.
Rory’s face swam up in her mind’s eye. Her mam had always said he looked like David Beckham, and it was true. If he were a pop star, girls would be breaking into his house just to catch a glimpse of that dirty blond hair and blue eyes. It was a sin that a man should have eyes that beautiful and be such an SOB.
They’d started dating when they were just babies, fifteen years old. Casual, then serious. Very serious, then committed, even when his family moved to America. Six years of trying to find a place to be alone together when he’d come back in the summer, of arguing with her parents about visiting him, of the two of them planning their wedding. One memory in particular dashed back at her: it was early evening, the sky all grey dusk and pink, and she and Rory were lounging beneath the big oak tree in Old Man Mc Donagh’s field, the sun filtering through the lattice work of the leaves. “The Lover’s Tree,” it was called, because the old man never minded couples loafing beneath it. Rory was leaning back against the tree; she was stretched out with her head in his lap. It felt like they were in a poem.
Rory looked down at her, smiling. “I was thinking it might be nice if our wedding ceremony was just you and me, and some old padre saying the words in an ancient church, the only light coming from a blaze of candles surrounding us.”
Erin settled into his lap dreamily. “That’s very romantic.”
“And it saves us worrying about a guest list.”
Erin clucked her tongue and looked up at him with affection. “I knew you had an ulterior motive.”
“Me? Never.” His expression was tender as his large, strong hand brushed against her cheek. “I know it sounds mad, but sometimes I feel like we’re already married, we’ve been together so long.”
“Is that your way of telling me you’re getting tired of me, Rory Brady?” Erin teased.
His expression turned tender. “I could never get tired of you.”
He put his hand over his heart. “On my life.” His voice, a deep sexy rumble, was charged with emotion as he continued, “You’re the only one for me, Erin, and you always have been. Nothing can change that, not even geography. You’re going to be my wife.”
She believed him. Their love was immutable, fixed as law. There was no telling where one left off and the other began. It had always been that way, and always would be.
The memory faded, straight on narrative returning as if she needed once again to recount the facts of what happened to make sure it was real.
They decided they’d wait to tie the knot until Rory graduated from Cornell and got picked up by a minor hockey team, and then hopefully, the NHL. Which is exactly how it happened.
Except part of it didn’t. The wedding. Erin loved him so blindly and with such faith that even after he hadn’t come back to Ballycraig for two summers running, she clung to her belief they’d always be together. swallowing all that rubbish he fed her about the NHL and training camp and not having any time to get back home. Deep down, she knew. So when she gave him the ultimatum—either marry me like you promised or walk—she shouldn’t have been surprised when he grabbed Option B.
Even so, when the crash came, it was no less devastating. She was dragged under by their history together, tormented by every loving thing he’d ever said and done over the years. She’d have donned widow’s weeds if she could. It was a lucky thing that she was surrounded by loving family and friends, like Sandra and Rory’s former best friend, Jake Fry. Were it not for all of them, especially Jake and Sandra, she’d have spent her life curled up in bed, not caring about anything. She certainly stopped caring about her job in the jewelry store in Crosshaven, quitting a month after Rory dumped her. She couldn’t handle dealing with people, especially happy couples who came in looking for wedding rings.
It took her two years her to pull herself together, but when she did, she made a promise to herself: never, ever again would she give her hopes and dreams over to a man like Rory Gallagher.