George Sullivan reunites with his long-lost love Susan O'Reilly. Their daughter Carly enters into an unholy alliance to secure her position as Liam Larkin's wife. As secrets unfold and more madness takes root, Carly plots a fatal and twisted scheme to exact revenge on the Larkin family . . .
Larkin City, Maine
KEVIN LARKIN USUALLY TENDED bar at the Coven Lounge on weekends, taking a break from his position at the family lumber and hardware store. He enjoyed the interaction with locals and meeting new people that walked through the door. Being a bachelor in the environment was also beneficial as Kevin met many women during his sojourn as weekend bartender, loving and leaving several of them along the way.
Liam Larkin often joined the fray on Saturday nights, mingling with his friends and hoping to find a date or two among the throng. October was especially brisk in Larkin City, so Liam arrived at the Coven dressed in tight black jeans, a white polo shirt and his favorite dark green leather jacket. His dark hair was a bit long, but he kept it styled off his face.
Liam went directly to the bar to visit with his brother Kevin. After ordering a beer, Liam asked: "How's business tonight?"
Kevin began to fill another order from the lounge, setting up a tray and glasses. "Two of the waitresses called in sick, so I had to pool my vast resources of local talent to fill in."
Liam laughed. "In other words, you conned a few of your old flames to come in and work. What did you promise them this time? A romantic dinner for two followed by a movie? Or perhaps you lured them with a promise for a rendezvous at the Amber Whale for the night?"
Kevin grinned. "A bit of both, I'm afraid. Jane likes dinner and a movie, and she tends to invite me in when I take her back to her apartment. Beatrice, on the other hand, likes to go straight for the sex. Since her husband is at home, she prefers meeting at the Amber Whale. At my expense, of course."
"Naturally," Liam snorted as he took a sip of beer. "One of these days some jealous husband is going to beat the hell out of you. Try sticking to single women."
"Nah," Kevin replied. "Most single women want a bloody commitment. Married ladies are safe; they want nothing more than a tumble in the hay. Besides, I don't know of one man in Larkin City who can take me on."
"True," Liam admitted. "You're bigger than an ox."
Kevin began mixing drinks for the order. "Yes, I took after Daddy while you have Mum's delicate frame."
"I'll thank you to keep your barbs to yourself," Liam retorted.
Kevin glanced up from his task to reply, but then suddenly stopped short. "Holy Moses," he whistled. "Look at the piece of work that just walked in the front door."
Liam swiveled in his barstool to get a better look at the entryway to the pub. There was a small landing by the door, with a half-dozen wide steps that led into the lounge area. Liam spied the woman Kevin was referring to at once. His eyes widened in surprise and then appreciation. The woman was tall and slender, at least five-foot-ten– inches tall with blonde hair that fell just past her shoulders. Her bangs were overlong, obscuring a clear view of her eyes. She was wearing a dark red dress that came up to her thighs, with a wide gold belt fastened around her slim hips. Her legs were bare, but her feet were encased in pair of high-heeled dark red shoes. Liam noted her breasts were high and firm, but not over-large. The clothes might appear cheap or gaudy on anyone else, but somehow the woman managed to carry herself with an air of reserved austerity.
"I have never seen anyone that beautiful in all my life," Kevin declared from behind the bar. "And she's not alone."
The woman appeared to be with a group of girlfriends. As they descended the steps into the lounge, all eyes went to them. However, none of the group held a candle to the blonde woman. As she walked through the tables, not one soul had the temerity to approach her. Her height also made her appear intimidating, and there were few men able to muster the courage to address her directly. She carried a small half-purse under her arm, occasionally brushing her hair behind her ears. Leaving her friends at a table in the middle of the lounge, she made her way to the bar and sat next to Liam. She did not glance his way, but he was highly aware of her presence and the smell of her musky perfume.
"What can I get for you?" Kevin asked the woman.
"A margarita, please, with a slice of lemon."
"Coming right up," Kevin replied. "By the way, my name is Kevin Larkin, and this is my brother, Liam. We own the Coven. I haven't seen you in here before. Are you new in town?"
Liam rolled his eyes. Leave it to Kevin to get the conversation going with small talk. Yet his brother had a way of drawing women into inane discourse in which they revealed more about themselves, more so than they normally would in front of a stranger.
And it worked.
The woman glanced at Liam briefly, and then retuned her eyes to Kevin. "My name is Carly O'Reilly. My friends and I started out this morning for a day trip along the coast. We've hit every town between here and Bangor, but as soon as we saw Larkin City we decided to spend the night. We have rooms at the Amber Whale."
"Interesting choice," Kevin said as he handed Carly her drink. "The Amber Whale was destroyed by fire in 1904 and was later re-built into a dress shop. Last year my family tore down the dress shop and constructed the Amber Whale from the original 1870 specs. With added modern conveniences, of course."
Carly smiled, and both Kevin and Liam were stunned by the brilliance of her teeth and the full curve of her lips. She had what they called a "barracuda" smile, full of white teeth and a sensuous mouth. She brushed the bangs away from her eyes, and for the first time Liam noticed their dark blue color and the heavy black eyeliner that framed her under-eyes.
While observing her beauty, Kevin was nagged by a feeling of familiarity. Had he met her before? He didn't think so. He would have remembered someone with her face and body. Yet she struck a chord with him, as if he knew her from another place and time.
Kevin's attention was called away by a waitress with an order, so Liam took the opportunity to take over the conversation with Carly. He watched her take a bite of lemon and then a healthy sip of the margarita. She removed a pack of cigarettes from her purse and was just about to strike a match when Liam flicked his lighter in front of her.
Carly glanced at him. She took in his features, meeting his coal eyes. His hair was as dark as his eyes, and he had a noticeable cleft in his chin. By the looks of it he was as tall as she was but no more, and his lips were full and slightly parted.
She accepted the light, thanking him after exhaling smoke.
"You're welcome," Liam replied. He was not at all intimidated by her as he sensed she wanted him to be, which he supposed came from years of practice and rounds of endless dating. Despite her mysterious and exotic allure, Liam was certain he could literally charm the pants off Carly O'Reilly.
"You made quite an entrance into the lounge, didn't you?" Liam observed, keeping his tone casual. "A fine performance, if I do say so myself."
"If you say so," Carly responded a trifle coolly, not sure if she liked Liam's insight into her operating techniques. He was apparently immune to her charm and beyond any misconceptions of ambiguity, and he was not overawed by speaking with her on an equal level.
"What prompted you and your friends to take a trip along the coast?" Liam asked.
Carly looked away from him. "We like to get together and go off on spontaneous excursions now and then. We all work at the Bella Catering Company in Bangor, and this was one of the few weekends we didn't have a job lined up. We decided to make the most of it."
"Have you ever been to Larkin City before?" Liam pressed.
She shook her head. "This is my first time here. It's quite lovely, if not a bit small and quaint. Have you lived here long?"
Liam laughed. "All my life. My great-great grandfather founded the city."
"Oh really?" Carly said, her interest piqued. "Is that how you and your brother came to own the Coven? Is that how you make your living?"
He drained his beer. "Actually, I come here to relax but Kevin mans the place on weekends. During the week we're working stiffs just like everyone else."
Carly flicked her cigarette in the heavy glass ashtray in front of her. "Oh? Where do you work during the week?"
"We work at the local lumber company," Liam answered her. "I do purchasing, while Kevin supervises the staff. We also fill in where we're needed."
Carly bit into her lemon again, taking another quick drink. "I love the catering business," she said with enthusiasm. "I like creating original ideas and new recipes. Right now I'm just an assistant to Bella's owner in Bangor, but someday I hope to have my own company."
Kevin returned to the bar, noticing Liam and Carly were enjoying an easy conversation. Liam was making progress but this did not bother Kevin. His brother deserved a beauty like Carly O'Reilly. Someone with her looks and obvious style did not come along too often, and Kevin was glad to see Liam with a lady of class rather than the needy women he cavorted with on occasion.
Liam tapped his beer mug. "Can I have another, brother?"
Kevin gave him a fresh mug filled with frothing beer. He looked to Carly. "Are you ready for another?"
"Please," she replied. She swallowed down the rest of her drink, handing the glass to Kevin. She flashed a smile at Liam. "The tequila is going to my head."
Kevin winked at his brother, but Liam ignored him. "Have you eaten dinner?"
"No. We had a late lunch on the road around four o'clock, but that was hours ago."
"Let's have dinner," Liam suggested.
Carly's eyes lit up. "I would enjoy that."
"We can eat at the restaurant upstairs, or we can go to the Amber Whale and have fresh seafood in the tavern," he told her.
Carly tilted her head slightly, smiling again. "Which would you recommend?"
"The food upstairs is good," Liam admitted. "Kevin brought in a chef from Boston last year, who mainly specializes in Irish food with a few French dishes thrown in. On the other hand, the Amber Whale has the best seafood, steak and pasta in the state of Maine."
Carly was no fool. She knew where Liam was going with his adroit invitation to dinner. He wanted to maneuver her back to the Amber Whale where he knew she had a room for the night. By now Carly found the idea rather appealing, so she acquiesced. "The Amber Whale it is, then," she said softly, her eyes warm as she looked at him.
Liam felt a strong sexual thrill from Carly's gaze, something he had not experienced in a long time. Over the years he entertained plenty of women, but there were few in his memory that made him feel like Carly did now. The desire seemed to be pitted deep in his stomach, winding its way through his entire body. There was something magical about Carly, something undefined and mysterious that he was suddenly desperate to uncover.
"What about your friends?" Liam asked.
Carly glanced over her shoulder at her friends in the lounge. "It looks like they're having fun," she said. "I'll tell them we're leaving, and I'll see them later at the Amber Whale."
"Good. We can leave in my car." Liam motioned to his brother at the other end of the bar. Kevin nodded and came over. "We're going to the Amber Whale for dinner," Liam told him, dropping money on the bar. "That's for our drinks. See you later at home?"
Kevin took the money and stashed it into his bar-apron pocket. "Sure. Have a nice time." He reached across the bar and shook Carly's hand. "It was a pleasure to meet you. Hopefully we'll see you in Larkin City more often."
"Thank you," Carly murmured. "I hope so, too."
Kevin watched as Liam and Carly made their way through the lounge, stopping at her friends table briefly and then moving toward the door.
Kevin took their glasses from the bar and placed them in a sink underneath the counter. He wiped the bar with a small white towel, watching his brother and Carly disappear from the lounge. All of a sudden Kevin had an uneasy rush in the pit of his stomach, but he tried to quell it. The familiar feeling about Carly persisted, but he could not put his finger on the reasons why.
"Liam needs to enjoy himself," Kevin thought as he washed glasses under the counter. "Hell, as long as he doesn't run off and get married, he'll be just fine."
ENTHRALLMENT ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.
"Enthrallment" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Enthrallment" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.