“My mammy’s oatmeal pancakes are perfection.” Roisin bulldozed her way into the awful silence as her new boss continued to glare at her as if she’d lost her ever-loving mind.
Maybe she had, because her chatter only seemed to be digging herself deeper into his bad books. But silence was something she had always been compelled to fill, ever since her father had disappeared one morning when she was five years old, never to return, and her whole family had been reeling with shock.
But seriously, how much worse could the impression Nathaniel King have of her get? Given she had already managed to accidentally surprise him nekkid in his own bedroom?
“Honestly you’ll love them,” she continued, her motormouth doing all the thinking now. “It’s my mammy’s special top secret recipe. Very few people have ever been honored enough to taste them. Only me and my five older brothers. And their wives and girlfriends, and my second-oldest brother Rory’s boyfriend, Imran, and my mother’s best friend, Dorchas, and her kids, of course. And a few other essential people in our local village in Connemara, such as the priest, Father Mulligan...”
Nathaniel King seemed momentarily speechless in the face of her panic babbling. But then his stomach growled again.
“And I’ve cooked them, so it would be a terrible shame now to let them go to waste.”
He thrust his fingers through the long waves of gold-burnished hair and swore under his breath. “Has anyone ever told you how damn annoying you are?” he said at last. But the cold, ruthless edge in his voice had softened a fraction.
Roisin considered it a major win.
“Frequently,” she barreled on. “My youngest older brother, Finn. That’d be short for Finbar, but no one calls him that unless they want to die. So Finn, now, as I was after telling you, he nicknamed me the Craic Addict. Craic spelt C-R-A-I-C. It’s Irish for ‘great conversation.’ But it wasn’t a compliment, I don’t think.”
“Stop talking.” He held up his hand. “My ears are starting to bleed.”
She bit into her lip to stop the flow of pointless information and nodded as it occurred to her he probably hadn’t heard this much conversation in months. Maybe even longer. How long had he been trapped in his penthouse? Alone. And what had he endured before that? While chained for six months in that cold, dark cellar in Italy? It didn’t bare thinking about.
The pulse in her chest pounded at the horrifying thought of being so isolated, so alone. Great craic was a part of her cultural DNA, conversation and companionship the glue which had bonded her family together during the difficult years after Da left, even if her particular brand of chatter had driven her brothers insane on more than one occasion.
“I promise not to say another word,” she said gently. “If you’ll just let me fix you a plate of my mammy’s pancakes.”
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