ONE LAST CHANCE
Deirdre Murphy has had her life planned for her since she was born: Work in her parents’ noisy pub in rural Ireland. Live with her family until she marries. Marry her childhood sweetheart ASAP, since he’s decided sexy fun time should wait for marriage. None of it excites her. But before her fate closes in, Deirdre’s got one last visit to her Chicago cousins—where she can spend her mornings in a peaceful bakery, keep to herself, and savor the space she needs…. Until she meets Tommy O’Malley.
Tommy is as tough as his city and twice as ready to welcome her in. He’s covered in tattoos, stays up half the night inking them on other people, and has a reputation for being good with his hands. And he’s heart-pounding, forgot-her-words, can’t-stop-staring exciting.
Tommy knows he’s the opposite of everything Deirdre has prepared for. But to watch her set herself free, he’s willing to risk almost anything…
“Is your aunt home?”
“Not sure.” She peered over his shoulder to look for Aunt Eileen’s car. “Why?”
“She scares me a little.”
Deirdre laughed. “My mother has the same effect on boys. It’s like they attended a mothering school that required a course in instilling fear in young men.”
“How did your boyfriend move past it?”
Deirdre unlocked the door and pushed it open. As she took off her jacket, she said, “He didn’t have to. His parents and mine are close friends. He grew up at the pub same as me.”
“Damn. That doesn’t help me at all.”
With her jacket on the hook near the closet, she locked the door behind them. “What do you need help with?”
“Making your aunt like me. Don’t get me wrong, I can charm some parents, but Mrs. O’Leary seems to be able to withstand the O’Malley charm.”
Deirdre crossed her arms. “And when exactly did you try to charm Aunt Eileen?”
“Not me. Jimmy. He says that until he proposed, Mrs. O’Leary gave him the cold shoulder. And, according to Moira, she liked Jimmy more than the rest of us.”
Deirdre laughed. “She did warn me to stay away from the O’Malley boys, no matter how charming they are.”
“Looks like I have my work cut out for me.”
“Thank you for lunch. I had a lovely time.”
“What about the cupcakes?”
“What about them?”
“You’re supposed to teach me to decorate.”
She rolled her eyes. “You don’t want to decorate.”
“You’re persistent, I’ll give you that.” She turned toward the kitchen, not a bit sad to spend more time with him. “Let’s get started then.”
Once more, Deirdre went through the kitchen and gathered ingredients, this time setting them by the stand mixer that she doubted Aunt Eileen ever used. Tommy said nothing, just continued to watch her intently. She tried to ignore the staring and the niggling worry about whether he’d ask her out again.
She didn’t know how to tell him that, over the course of the afternoon, she’d changed her mind about a date. It made her seem quite fickle, which went against how she saw herself.
With the butter and shortening in the mixer, she flipped the switch to blend them as she grabbed a couple of lemons out of the fridge.
Tommy pointed to the bowl. “What is that?”
“That will be the buttercream frosting.”
“But it’ll taste delicious.”
“I thought buttercream was all butter.”
“I use the shortening to make crusting buttercream. It’s a firmer frosting for decorating.”
“In our house, unless it’s from the bakery, frosting comes from a can and half gets eaten by spoon before making it onto a cake and the other half gets slapped on. There’s no real decorating to it.”
“That’s the way of most people. Making it from scratch isn’t difficult, but if you have no desire to decorate, there’s no point.” She stopped the mixer and added some sugar and lemon juice. While that mixed, she readied a piping bag. “I only have one bag, so you’ll have to watch.”
He gave her that wicked smile again. “I like to watch.”
She didn’t even know what he meant by that, but the way he spoke caused a warm rush through her body.
“Is there something specific you’d like to learn about decorating?”
“What’s your favorite thing to do?”
She didn’t even have to think. “Roses.”
“They’re the first thing I learned to do well. Probably because my middle name is Rose, so I wanted to learn it as kind of a signature thing. In addition, creating the roses is soothing. My mind can go to its own place while my hands work.”
“What are you on about?”
“When you talk like that. About something that’s important to you, Deirdre Rose. It’s not the matter-of-fact way you usually talk. You change.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had a drink at lunch.”
“Fine. Don’t believe me. Let’s get to the lesson.”
“Oh, I believe Aunt Eileen was right after all. You O’Malley boys are quite the charmers.”
“If you’re good, you’re good.”
She filled the pastry bag and grabbed a cupcake. Then she started to pipe the rose. When it was done, she handed it to Tommy.
“It’s almost too pretty to eat.”
“Nonsense. It’s meant to be enjoyed, not looked at.” She leaned forward and licked the top of the frosting off.
About the Author
Shannyn Schroeder is the author of the O’Leary series, contemporary romances centered around a large Irish-American family in Chicago and the Hot & Nerdy series about 3 nerdy friends finding love. Her new series (For Your Love) currently has 2 titles out - Under Your Skin and In Your Arms. When she’s not wrangling her three kids or writing, she watches a ton of TV and loves to bake cookies. Find out more at her Website.