Authors: Lora Leigh
Copyright © 2008 by Lora Leigh.
St. Martin's Paperbacks edition / September 2008
once knew a girl who claimed to be Irish. Whether the story she told me of Wild Irish Eyes is
true or not (she wouldn't admit either way
it still in part inspired the idea for this book
So thanks to her and other Internet friends. Stories told, hours of laughter, What Ifs, and
precious memories. The world is open to us now, as are stories true or imagined, and laughter
with those across the seas, across the nation, or across the street is but a click away.
Special thanks to Natalie, Jennifer, Melissa, Kelli
the best sis a writer could have
Janine and Annmarie, Chris and Jess. For the hours of reading, your comments, and your
suggestions. I couldn't do it without you
And special thanks to my editor Monique. Who doesn't mind to snap the whip, or listen to the
And to my family. Who put up with me when I'm on tight deadlines. My husband Tony who
makes certain I eat, my son Bret who makes my coffee, and my daughter Holly who listens to
me gripe when I get behind.
I couldn't do it without you.
Nathan sat beside his grandfather, Rory Malone, on the crude front porch of the shack he lived
in. Nathan was only ten, but he knew exactly why Grandpop didn't live with him and his
parents. Because Nathan's father, Grant, was ashamed of him.
"He's too fucking Irish," Grant would rage for hours after visiting with his father. "He uses that brogue like it's something to be proud of."
And God. forbid that Nathan should let a hint of that brogue free, though he practiced it as
often as he could away from his father.
Nathan's father didn't like being Irish. He didn't like people knowing he was Irish. If he could
ship Grandpop off somewhere, then Nathan sometimes thought that his father would do it. But
Grant Malone couldn't make Rory Malone do anything. The old man was as wise as the
mountains and the cliffs around them, and just as stubborn.
"Nathan, my boy, look at that sunset." Rory pointed out the majestic colors that washed over
the mountains. "Almost as pretty as Ireland, she is. Almost." And Nathan heard a whisper of
homesickness in his grandpop's voice.
"Why don't you go back?" Nathan asked. "Dad says you have enough money to live
He looked at his grandfather's weathered face. The bright blue eyes, just like Nathan's, brighter
than Nathan's father's and without the hints of green his father's had.
Grandpop smiled. A strange, sad little smile.
"Because my Erin is here." He pointed to the small graveyard.
There. Nathan's grandma, Erin Malone, was buried. On one side of her were buried the two
sons they lost in Vietnam, his uncles, Riordan and Rory Jr.. and the daughter that had died of a
fever, Nathan's aunt Edan.
"Grandma wouldn't want you to leave?" Nathan frowned. His grandma was dead, what would
"Oh, now my Erin, she'd smile down on me no matter where I walked." Grandpop smiled that
little smile again. "But I'd be separated from her, and I'd feel that separation in my soul, you
Nathan shook his head.
Grandpop sighed. "You have the Irish eyes, boy. One of these days, you'll see from eyes, not
your own, feel with a heart outside your chest. Wild Irish eyes. Nathan. When you love, love
well and love true, and take care, lad, because those Irish eyes are windows into not just your
own soul, but the soul of the one you love." Grandpop looked out at his Erin's grave. "And
when you lose that heart, you can't leave the places where your memories are the best. And if I
left her, I'd not be buried beside her."
Grandpop stared back at him then, and Nathan felt his chest grow tight at the thought of ever
burying his grandpop in the hard, bleak soil.
"Wild Irish eyes," his grandpop murmured then. "My father gave me the same warning I give
you now, boy. Don't lose the one you love. You lose a part of your soul when you do. The
legacy of those eyes will ensure it."
Nathan frowned. That didn't make much sense, but maybe he'd ask his uncle Jordan about it
later. Uncle Jordan still remembered his mother. He had been five when she died, just before
Nathan's birth. But Uncle Jordan was in Houston right now on summer break with Nathan's
older uncle Doran and his family.
"So my eyes are bad?" Nathan finally asked.
"Not bad." His grandpop sighed. "Not bad at all, boy. You'll see one of these days. One of these days, you'll see. Wild Irish eyes see what they shouldn't see, but even more." His grandfather
stared down at him sadly. "The one who holds your soul, who holds your heart." He thumped
Nathan's chest. "They see through you as well."
"Dad doesn't have Irish eyes then?" Grant's eyes had flecks of green. He always frowned. He
Worry flickered over Grandpop's face. "Your dad is a good man." He repeated what he always
"Is he, Grandpop?" Nathan thought about the baby sleeping in the house. The tiny baby that
Grandpop said was his brother. The baby Grant Malone denied. "Little Rory should have a dad
Grandpop touched his head gently and said softly, "Nothing is as we think, boy. There are
always layers, and layers, shades of gray and shades of black or white. You gotta find why, not
"Because he doesn't love us," Nathan whispered, accepting it as only a child can.
And Grandpop hook his head. "Layers, son. Remember that. There's always what you don't
know and what you don't see. And love doesn't always do what we think it should. Just
remember that, and you'll do fine."
And he grew. He looked for layers, he looked for shades of gray. Nathan Malone matured,
became a SEAL, and the layers drifted from his mind. But they were there. Always shifting,
always moving. Until the day he saw hell. And from the ashes of hell, he learned there were
layers he never knew existed.
Sixteen years later
Nathan Malone sat at his desk in the office of the garage/ service center he owned and watched
the young woman talking to one of his mechanics.
She didn't look happy. She looked frustrated. Sun-streaked blond hair fell to her shoulders, a
beautiful swath of waves that glistened in the sunlight. Nicely rounded, not too slender. She
had a butt to die for beneath the black skirt she was wearing, and breasts that rose temptingly
beneath a maroon blouse.
Slender heels completed the outfit. He wondered if those were hose or stockings she was
wearing. She looked like a stocking woman.
Finally, she threw her hands up, looked around, and her gaze caught his. Her nostrils flared in
determination and she moved quickly past the protesting mechanic to the door of his office.
He watched as the most amazing vision stalked across the floor and planted her hands on his
desk, glaring at him.
"Look, all I need is a wrench," she said forcefully. "Just loan me one. Sell me one. I don't care.
But if I have to go much farther in my car, I'm going to find myself hitchhiking. Do I look like
I want to be hitchhiking today?" She spread her arms out from her body as she straightened, her
pretty gray eyes cloudy, distressed, her pink lips tight as the mechanic moved in behind her.
"No, ma'am, you don't." Nathan shook his head, his gaze moving over her appreciatively before
he looked around her at the mechanic. "Is there a reason why we're not looking at her car?" he
asked the other man.
Sammy's eyes narrowed. "Garage bays are full, boss, I told her that."
"A wrench," she ground out between her teeth. "Just loan me the blasted wrench."
She was frustrated. Perspiration clung to her forehead, glistened at her cheeks. Then her
expression smoothed with obvious control.
"Look, really." Her voice softened and he was enchanted. Right there, to the sound of a sweet
Southern belle, Nathan Malone lost his heart. "I really just need a little bit of help here. I swear.
My job interview isn't going to wait for me. I promise, I won't take long."
She smiled, and he felt his world tilt on its axis. A sweet curve of her lips, a hint of
nervousness, frustration, and worry lingered in the soft curve. But she smiled at him. Hell, he
felt like a teenager again.
He moved around the desk and held out his hand to the door. "Show me the car. We'll get you
back on the road."
"Boss, we're packed," Sammy protested.
Nathan ignored him as the young woman turned and preceded him to the door. He was
watching her ass as she walked and it was the damnedest view. His hands itched to touch her.
Itched to cup those curves and feel them flex beneath his hands.
"I'm Sabella." She flashed him a smile over her shoulder. "I really appreciate this."
That Georgia accent was going to make him come in his jeans. No way was he going to hold it
back if she kept talking to him.
This one was his.
"It's going to cost you," he drawled as he popped open the hood to her little sporty sedan.
"It always does." She sighed. "How much do you think?"
She looked worried. She was definitely a woman with a goal and intent on getting there. Pretty
polished nails, just enough makeup to highlight her features, and pretty soft lips.
"Dinner." He grinned back at her, catching the surprise in her eyes.
"Dinner?" Wariness filled her voice.
"Just dinner," he promised. For now. "Tonight."
She stared back at him for long seconds, those gray eyes seeming to sink inside him, to search,
to warm places inside him he didn't know existed. Let alone knew they were cold.
Finally, her lips tipped into a charming, flirtatious grin.
"The bad boy of Alpine is asking me out to dinner?" she said mischievously. "I believe I just might swoon."
"That's not me. That's Sammy." He pointed to the mechanic. "I'm just a poor mechanic and
Navy SEAL." The girls loved SEALs. Anything to impress her.
"Nathan Malone, the SEAL with the wild blue eyes and the heartbreaking grin," she stated. "I know who you are."
"But I don't know who you are," he stated somberly. '"I'd love to find out."
That look again. Intense, probing. "Dinner," she finally agreed softly. "I'll meet you."
Whatever he could get. "Piedmont's." He named the most expensive restaurant in town, which
wasn't saying much. "Seven."
"Seven it is. But I'll never make it if you don't fix my car."
Sabella kept a knowing smile to herself. She had a feeling if she just told him what was wrong
with it, he'd never believe her anyway. She let him piddle around, find the loose hose, and
tighten it. There, just like she said, all she needed was a wrench. Her daddy had taught her how
to work on her own car a long time ago. Unfortunately, her own wrench was missing.
So she let him fix it. She played helpless. Because she liked the way he looked at her, the way
his wild blue eyes darkened just a bit, seemed more neon in his tanned face.
"Seven," he reminded her as he closed the hood and stared down at her. "I'll be waiting on you."
"And I'll be there," she promised. Because there was no way she was going to miss this. She'd
seen him in town often enough, she'd even fantasized about him a time or two after glimpsing
The hot SEAL. The bad boy of Alpine. Every woman she knew at the college lusted after him.
And Sabella decided, in that moment, Nathan was going to be hers.
Two years later
"Oh my God, Bella, what have you done?"
Bella jumped as she turned to face Nathan, seeing his wild eyes, his pale features, his hard, buff
body stalking across the front yard, his chest slick with sweat, bits of the grass he had been
cutting sticking to his jeans as he strode furiously to where her car met the back of his truck.
"It's just a little dent, Nathan. I promise…" Her heart was in her throat. Not in fear. He would never hurt her. But he sure knew how to pout when he wanted to.
"A little dent." He gripped her shoulders, moving her aside as he stared down at the crumpled
fender as it sank into the bumper of his truck.
It was an accident. It was all his fault. If he hadn't been wearing those butt-snug jeans and boots