One King's Way: The On Dublin Street Series
When he’s not working at the club, Craig Lanaghan looks out for his mother and little sisters. So when it comes to women, all he wants is a good time. But once Rain Alexander walks into his life, there’s no denying that this woman could be worth much more than a one-night stand….
Rain’s lifelong regret is having left her sister Darcy alone years ago with a guardian who turned out to be abusive. So when Darcy’s boyfriend publicly humiliates her in a cruel way, Rain’s overprotective instincts kick in and she follows him to Club 39—where she meets a guy who just might be her perfect match.
The chemistry between Rain and Craig is explosive, but Rain is out for revenge, and refuses to be sidetracked by flirtation. As things between them heat up, she’ll have to make a heartbreaking choice between giving in to the man of her dreams or putting her sister’s happiness first….
Release date: November 3, 2015
Print pages: 137
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One King's Way: The On Dublin Street Series
Snoring woke him.
The abrasive noise filtered into Craig’s unconscious and ripped him right out of sleep. He blinked against the faint light filtering in from the purple curtains hanging at his bedroom window.
Wait a minute.
I don’t own purple curtains.
The memory of last night slowly pushed to the forefront of his brain.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
Turning his head in tiny increments for fear he’d wake the snorer beside him, Craig glimpsed a pale face peeking out from the mass of red hair splayed all over the pillows. This wasn’t his bedroom. This was . . .
No, that wasn’t right.
Danielle “call me Danni.”
Craig sat up unhurriedly, his muscles locked with tension, worried that any slight movement would cause the snoring to stop and those bright blue eyes to open. Danielle “call me Danni” had hung around until he finished his shift at Club 39, the popular basement bar on George Street in the heart of Edinburgh’s city center. He’d been bartending there full time for five years and there were women who came regularly to the bar just to be served by him.
Some of them to be served by him.
She’d been coming to the bar for the last few weeks—every Thursday night without fail with her friends on student night. She was a postgrad. And she was fucking gorgeous. Craig could hardly let her down.
But sticking around in the morning?
Nah. They both knew what this was.
Or at least they both would when she woke up in the morning and he was gone.
He winced, hoping she was really all about casual like she’d promised she was last night. Craig never fucked a woman if he thought she might be clueless about the rules of a one-night stand. Ninety-nine percent of the time he read a woman right. There was the occasional one percent who always made him feel like a bastard afterward.
Shattered, and wanting his own bed away from the snorer, he slid carefully out of Danni’s bed and dressed quickly and quietly. He usually waited until a woman had fallen asleep after sex and then he’d leave, but last night he must have been more exhausted than usual because he’d drifted off too.
This was a close call.
He was just tiptoeing down the hall of the flat when a door to his right opened. He stopped in his tracks as a fresh-faced young woman gazed at him from her bedroom doorway.
She cracked a smile at his deer-in-headlights expression. “If you want to stay I can give you some earplugs,” she whispered.
He smirked at her joke and whispered back, “Thanks, but I need to get going.”
She nodded. “Don’t worry, Danni won’t be mad you left.”
“Good to know.”
“She would have thrown you out if you didn’t leave yourself.”
He grinned. “Is that right?”
“Oh yeah.” Her roommate grinned back. “She’s my hero. She’s better at this shit than any manwhore.” With that she shut the door in his face and Craig left the flat feeling amused and more than a little relieved.
* * *
“Pick a girl and settle down, Craig, before you catch a terrible disease. You know your dad was the same until he met me. Slept with anything with a vagina.”
La la la, la la la la.
“Son, are you listening to me?”
Nope. Because there were some words you never wanted your mother to utter, and vagina was one of them. Pretending the conversation had never happened, he opened the fridge, scrounging for a snack.
The fridge was almost empty.
Craig frowned, shut the door, and turned to look at his mum as she made him a cup of coffee with the last of the milk. “Why is the fridge empty?”
His mum glanced up from stirring sugar into his drink. “Och, don’t give me that look. Today was supposed to be my shopping day but they called me in to work to cover for someone. I just ordered some Chinese for dinner. I’ll go for my shopping tomorrow.”
After escaping Danni’s flat that morning he’d gotten home to his own flat and crashed until late afternoon. He’d showered and dressed, caught up with some friends for dinner, and then swung around to his mum’s on his way to work to check on her.
“So you’re okay?”
“I’m fine.” She handed him his coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.
Craig followed suit. “Are the girls okay?” He referred to his two sisters, Jeannie and Maggie.
“Fine. Both getting on fine.” She reached over and patted his hand. “You don’t need to worry so much anymore. Things have eased up since the girls moved out.”
For ten years—since he was fifteen years old and his dad died—Craig had been man of the house. He’d left school at sixteen so he could get a job and help his mum out financially. He hadn’t moved out of the house until the girls were old enough to get jobs and help out too. Now Jeannie was engaged at twenty-two and living with her fiancé, and Maggie was in the second term of her first year of university at Aberdeen.
This meant the pressure was off him somewhat, but it was hard to shake the responsibility and the constant concern he’d felt for them for so long.
“And how are you really, Mum?” He sipped at the coffee. “Since Mags left?”
A spark of sadness entered her eyes and Craig felt it in his gut. “I miss her. It’s quiet.” She forced a wide teasing grin. “I’m thinking about getting a cat.”
He shot her a grin. His mum. Cat lady. Somehow he couldn’t picture it. “I’ll try to come by more often.” He stopped over once a week for a coffee before his shift at the bar, and he talked to her on the phone a couple of times a week too.
Maybe it wasn’t enough.
“Don’t you dare,” she admonished. “You’re a grown man. I’m not cutting into your life.”
“You’re my mum. It’s not exactly cutting into my life.”
She gave him a sly smile. “What if I were to tell you I’d joined a dating site?”
Craig jerked a little, completely taken aback. His mum hadn’t been on a date for ten years, and it wasn’t because she wasn’t a good-looking woman. She didn’t look her fifty-five years, with her trim figure and smooth skin. But she’d spent the past ten years caring for her children and missing her late husband.
It would be nice for her to have company . . . but the thought of her dating . . . Craig scowled. “Dating sites can be dangerous.”
She laughed. “I thought you’d take it well.”
“You’re being serious, then?”
She shrugged. “I need a life, Craig. It’s time.”
He mused quietly over this as he drank his coffee. He didn’t like the idea of her using dating sites. He wasn’t sure he liked the idea of her dating at all. A heavy feeling sat in his gut—a feeling of concern and powerlessness. He hated it. It warred with the part of him that knew his mother deserved to find happiness again.
Finally he stood up. “If you make a date with someone, tell me about it. I want to know when and where—” He raised a hand to cut off her coming protest. “It’s for your safety, alright? You can’t be too sure these days.”
Sighing, his mum nodded. “Okay, darlin’.” Her eyes filled with tenderness. “Don’t work too hard.”
He gave her a small smile, rinsed out his mug, and kissed her on the cheek. “Love you,” he said gruffly.
Her whole face lit up like it always did when he told her he loved her. That’s why he did it as often as he could. “I love you too, son.”
* * *
“Okay, you haven’t flirted with one customer or Jo this evening, so I have to ask . . . what is going on with you?” an American voice said from behind him.
Craig shot his colleague, fellow bartender, and friend, Joss Butler, a wry look over his shoulder. “I remember getting my head bitten off the last time I asked you that. There might have been a finger involved, and not in a good way.”
She rolled her eyes at his teasing. “Forget I asked.”
“Well I want to know.” Jo sidled up to them.
It was a Friday evening, and they were having a weirdly quiet lull.
“Plus”—Jo shot Joss a teasing smile—“if Joss is using this time to talk to us instead of canoodling with Carmichael then she really must be worried about you.”
Joss glowered at Jo and they laughed.
Across the bar, sitting in their usual seats were Joss’s boyfriend, Braden Carmichael, and his sister, Ellie, and her boyfriend, Adam. Sometimes they visited the bar on nights Joss was working. Craig had never seen a man as smitten as Braden, although it could be said his best friend, Adam, was a close contender.
Craig didn’t blame them. Although he wasn’t really a relationship-type guy, he could see the attraction. Ellie was a tall, very pretty, and very sweet blonde. And Joss . . . Well, Joss was another matter entirely. She was sexy as hell.
He didn’t know if it was the fact that she was gorgeous as fuck with her seductive gray cat eyes and the best pair of tits he’d ever seen, or if it was more than that. Craig had known her a good few years now, and yet he felt like he hardly knew anything about her.
He compared her to his other colleague. Jo was tall, built like a supermodel, and was probably technically the most beautiful woman he’d ever met, and ever slept with. But he knew all he needed to know about Jo. She was a nice enough girl, but he couldn’t fully respect a woman who would open her legs for the richest fucker who came along just so she had a few nice pairs of shoes in her wardrobe. The only reason she slept with him was because they were drunk and she’d just been dumped by the latest wealthy asshole.
However, Joss . . . Joss was a mystery. She was sharp, quick-witted, and rarely gave anything away about her life. She intrigued him. Maybe it was because he hadn’t had her, but he’d always fancied her and saw her as the ultimate challenge. She had the kind of charisma that was rare—it made her stand out to him, made her that wee bit more special than most of the women he’d known. Craig reckoned she was the kind of woman who might have changed his one-night-stand ways . . . But they’d never know because there was one thing he did know about Joss:
She was completely in love with Braden Carmichael.
The lucky fuck.
Craig smirked at the thought. The only reason he wasn’t put out by this fact was because Braden felt the same way about Joss, and . . . honestly, Craig wasn’t exactly unhappy in his pursuit of women. He had it free and easy. Life was good.
Except for one thing.
“My mum joined an Internet dating site.” He saw Joss’s mouth twitch with amusement and rolled his eyes. “Why do I bother?”
“No, I’m sorry.” She held up her hands in placation. “I’m not going to laugh. I swear.”
He shot a look at Jo, who was also trying to contain her amusement.
“Why did Alistair have to be sick tonight?” he groaned and leaned on the bar, lowering his head into his hands, referring to their other colleague who Jo was covering for.
“Are they torturing you, Craig?” Braden’s familiar voice drew his head back up.
Braden leaned against the bar, staring at Joss in amusement.
It had taken Braden a few months to stop looking at Craig like he wanted to rip his balls off—he was pissed at Craig for the time he’d kissed Joss at the bar during a shift. Craig had actually done it partly because he’d always wanted to and partly because he wanted to piss off Braden. He’d assumed Braden was just some rich arsehole who thought he could get anyone he wanted. He’d watched him play Joss that night, hanging on to some pretty brunette’s every word, attempting to make Joss jealous. So Craig had delighted in showing him that Joss didn’t belong to him, that two could play that game.
It worked out in a way he never imagined, but Braden turned out to be a decent guy.
He also eventually got over Craig and the kiss.
“Joss thinks it’s funny that my mum has joined a dating site.”
Braden’s gaze darted to him and he winced sympathetically. “Fuck.”
“Thank you.” Craig slammed his hand down on the bar. “That right there! That is the appropriate reaction.”
“Okay, so obviously I don’t get it.” Joss seemed to unconsciously lean across the bar toward her boyfriend. Braden automatically linked their hands together.
Craig ignored their lovey-dovey shit. “Do you know how dangerous dating sites can be?”
“They’re not too bad,” Jo said.
It was not lost on him that he was a lucky man who got to work alongside two stunning women he had a laugh with, but right now they were being deliberately obtuse and annoying. “Not too bad?”
She shrugged. “My friend found her boyfriend on a dating website.”
“This isn’t your friend. This is my mum.”
“I didn’t realize you were a momma’s boy,” Joss teased.
“Jocelyn,” Braden murmured in warning.
She sighed. “What? What am I not getting?”
“It’s weird for a man to think of his mother being a woman. It’s even stranger for your mother to be dating. It’s concerning for your mother to be dating via the Internet, where there are millions of fucking weirdos pretending to be people they are not,” Braden said.
Her eyes lit up with understanding. “Oh. Right. I see.” She patted Craig on the shoulder. “She’ll be fine.”
“Aye.” Jo patted his other shoulder. “Don’t worry about her. Just make sure she tells someone where and when she’s going if she decides to meet up with a guy.”
He nodded. “I’ve already told her to tell me.”
“Well there’s nothing more you can do, I’m afraid,” Joss said in her usual straightforward manner. “She’s a grown woman and she has a right to make these kinds of decisions. Has it been a while since she’s been on a date?”
“Oh hell yeah.” She scrunched up her nose, “You are going let your mom do this.”
“Ten years,” Jo whispered, her eyes wide. “God, I hope I never have to go ten years without getting some.”
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