Hot Irish Lass
Weldon Brothers Series
James Weldon likes fast rides, wild women, and to party hard—they go a long way to help him forget the premonition curse he is under. He’s a tried and true bachelor who’s not about to lose his Free Bird kahunas like his brothers. He’s been on a hiatus helping his father after the old man’s brush with death. But his plans to get back into the game at a blow-out St. Patrick’s Day party go awry. James not only can’t find his bachelor’s groove because a certain Irish lass by the name of Cierra Weldon has him off kilter, but he gets hijacked from his Savannah home to Manhattan by his brother’s top security investigator. They want him to determine if that Irish Lass has ties to terrorists. James knows Cierra is a lot of things, perfect being one of them, but she is not a terrorist. That doesn’t mean she isn’t being used by one. Her association to billionaire Sheik Hassan al Zayed puts her under suspicion.
The moment James hits New York and connects with Cierra, a whirlwind of events unfold– one of them being a premonition about Cierra. He fears for her life and finds himself sacrificing everything to keep her safe. Even his heart that she somehow managed to steal when he wasn’t looking.
Horses are Cierra Weldon’s life. She may have grown up privileged in a castle-like estate in Ireland, but life hasn’t been necessarily easy. When she was sixteen, her parents were killed in a car accident. She took over running her father’s racing and stud farm then and now, after eight years, she is looking to expand by establishing a breeding and training farm in the United States—mainly to escape her FOUR overbearing, overprotective brothers. She hasn’t found the right place. Her current troubles started when she told Hassan she wasn’t interested in his gilded cage. She was stalked, attacked, and now her prized racehorse in Ireland has been stolen. She’s sure Hassan’s behind it, trying to show her how much she needs him.
She concocts a fake engagement with James, hoping Hassan will see she’s taken, and “miraculously find” her stolen horse for her.
James shows up. Not only does her world go to hell in a handbasket, but her heart falls hard for a man who thinks commitment is a prison sentence.
They say life can change in a blink of an eye. What can happen in seventy-two hours?
The two handlers, one clutching a machine gun, went into the remote stable where the horse was being held and opened fire. The article and the ransom note in Cierra Weldon’s hands shook as she gasped for air. Tears blurred her vision and her stomach wrenched with nauseating pain.
This couldn’t be bloody happening.
She snatched up her cell phone, cursing at the lack of bars and ran out onto her balcony. A warm sun and a cool breeze kissed her face. Sometimes March in New York could be heavenly or it could be hell. Today glowed too nice a day for evil to strike. The concrete landscape of Manhattan spiked the horizon. Sirens echoed up to her thirtieth floor condo. Help was on the way to somewhere.
Just not for her or her precious Pegasus. Don’t go to the authorities. Don’t tell anyone. You have seventy-two hours to get ten million in unmarked bills. Instructions to follow.
First, she rang Liam O’Conner, the managing trainer of her family’s racing and stud farm, Innisfree, in Ireland. Like a grandfather to her, Liam had mentored her father and he’d taught Cierra everything she knew about horses, too. Not just physically how to handle a horse, but how to connect on a deeper level than master to beast. Aside from personality, each horse has a unique spirit. Connecting to that spirit is what gave her a magic hand in training her thoroughbreds, which in turn had gained Innisfree notoriety in the world of horse racing, training, and breeding.
Liam would deny he’d had a hand in her talent. He always said she was just a natural, yet Cierra knew that talent without guidance rarely went anywhere. Liam didn’t get around as easily as he used to. He’d seemed frailer when she’d seen him on her New Year’s visit home, so she hated disturbing him now, but he’d be crushed if she called anyone else before him. He’d also be the one person who could keep the situation quiet for her.
Innisfree adjoined her ancestral home, Kilkorony Manor in County Kildare, and had a top-of-the line security system. She wanted to believe it was nothing more than a hoax, yet deep inside, she knew it wasn’t. She’d been on a roller coaster ride through hell over the past nine months, having been stalked and attacked in New York. She had an idea who might be behind the stalking and maybe stealing, too. Though crazy, the niggling doubt wouldn’t go away.
Ever since she’d told Sheik Hassan al Zayad—aka billionaire who wanted to put her in his cage—that she wasn’t interested in the life he offered, bad things had happened.
Liam answered on the third ring, sounding a little groggy. He’d likely consumed a pint or two while sitting before a crackling fire in his beloved one room cottage. She knew his routine because before her father died, he’d join the old horse trainer at least once a week to discuss horses. As a little girl she’d tag along, never far from her father’s side. Back then she’d called Liam, O’Connor, and he’d called her C-lass. The affectionate names had stuck.
“O’Connor. It’s really important. I need you to go check on Pegasus and ring me back.”
“Fair enough but McGregor’s on security watch tonight, if anything were wrong, he’d have called. What has ya worried?”
“Just ring me back, will ya.”
“I will, but you need to be telling me more, C-lass. You haven’t suddenly got the seeing curse, have ya?”
“No, I haven’t.” Cierra drew a deep breath almost wishing she had the Weldon family’s gift of sight at the moment. Every few generations a person was born who knew things ordinary people didn’t. Her aunt would get flashes of things about to happen. Sometimes she saw who was in danger, sometimes she didn’t, only seeing the disaster about to happen. Her aunt had had a premonition of the stalker’s attack. Cierra had thought she’d taken enough precautions to keep safe.
She’d been wrong.
Her father had been wrong the night her parents died, too. She shuddered and shook off the memory. “Just ring me when you get to the stables. You know you can’t hold your cane, talk on the phone, and carry a light to see your way.”
She disconnected and paced across the balcony, muttering as her phone pinged, downloading several voice messages in a row. All three calls, just minutes apart, had come from Hassan ten minutes ago. Not too long after she’d received the horse-napper’s note.
She had no doubt he’d rang to play hero to her new disaster. She wanted to go at Hassan with her guns blazing. She also wanted to hop on the first jet back home and search for Pegasus herself. The frustration that she couldn’t do either had her hands fisted. She couldn’t confront Hassan until she had enough proof to call his hand. And if she showed up in Ireland, all four of her over protective brothers would be like hounds after a fox as they tried to hunt down why. They were already suspicious because she’d shown up after Christmas when she’d told them she’d stay in New York for the holidays. But after the stalker attack and Hassan’s reappearance in her life, she’d fled Manhattan.
Her relationship with Hassan had begun innocently enough.
Dazzled by his ultra-rich lifestyle and seduced by his exotic handsomeness, she had been swept away by his dashing determination to make her his. At the time, she had zero interest in any involvement. She’d just escaped twenty-four years of stifling overprotection from her brothers and wanted to live free of any commitments or obligations. But last year Hassan had followed her to every horse racing event around the globe for an entire spring/summer season, doing his best to prove just how much he wanted her before she went on a date with him. From day one, he’d lavished gift after gift upon her—she kept the flowers and chocolates and sent back the diamonds, the real estate deeds, and cars. At first she thought he gave such expensive gifts in order to receive affection from her and she tried hard to let him know that wasn’t necessary. It took her less than a month to realize he gave because he wanted her beholden to him and dependent on his luxury. Any relationship with Hassan, even a friendship, equaled being put into a cage. And no matter how gloriously gilded, she wasn’t interested in that life—ever. She’d told Hassan exactly that. She could still remember every detail of his smile and response.
“It’s a dangerous and cruel world, Habiba. You are young, so I will forgive you. You need me to protect you and keep all that you hold dear safe. You will see.”
At first she’d blown his words off as an overinflated ego saving face. Even when the stalking started, she didn’t relate the problem to Hassan. It wasn’t until the stalker attacked a week before Christmas and Hassan had shown up the day after, offering to do anything he could to protect her, she suspected Hassan might be behind it. She had declined his assistance and left town for several weeks. First flying to Savannah to meet the newly discovered American branch of the Weldon family—and the irritatingly irresistible James—then back to Ireland to wrangle with her brothers.
Liam rang back, his voice deadly grim. Pegasus had been taken. His GPS tracking bracelet had been removed. Innisfree’s alarm system had been disabled, the security cameras destroyed, and McGregor was missing.
“This was an inside job. It’s the only way to have pulled it off. I’m ringing the Guards,” Liam said, referring to the An Garda Sioch?na, Ireland’s National Police.
“If I do anything, they’ve threatened to do to Pegasus what the IRA did to Shergar.” The valuable racehorse stolen in the early eighties had belonged to the Aga Khan and several other businessmen. The horse had been killed before ransom could be paid.
“Bollox. We can’t let the scumbag McGregor get away with this! The Donovan has to know what’s happened.”
“No, my brother doesn’t. None of them need to know. Not yet.” She wasn’t a child with a scraped knee. She’d deal with her own problems. Besides, she didn’t want them hurt either. They’d go after Hassan, body guards and all, with their fists flying.
“Ye need someone, C-lass. What if I pay your Da’s old friend, Ian Conelley, a visit? He’s doing private investigations with his son now. Ye can trust them to be discreet.”
Cierra bit her lip. She didn’t want to jeopardize Pegasus, but had to fight with every weapon she could find. “Do it. I’m hiring a security company to quietly come in until this is over, too.”
“I’m not much on strangers, but it seems as if we can’t even trust our own shadows. I know McGregor’s da. A good man. It’ll break him to hear this.”
“Don’t say anything yet. Not until we know more. I’ll hire extra security for Loki and Thor here at Hyde Gardens as well.”
“What about you, C-lass? You’ll have someone looking after you, too?”
“Yes,” she assured him so he wouldn’t worry. She hadn’t thought that far ahead, though.
“Tell that grandson of mine to ring me soon. I think he gets on with the lasses over there and forgets about me. At least he isn’t running with those Dublin skangers heading to a no good end.”
Liam’s grandson, several years her junior, had come to New York to care for her two thoroughbreds that she kept close for riding. The equestrian estate where she stabled them had housing for handlers. “I’ll let Cullen know. When he rings ya, don’t mention Pegasus.”
“I’ll keep it to meself, but if I think you’re in danger, that’ll change.”
Cierra sighed, admitting she’d do the same if the shoe was on the other foot. She hung up and rang Cullen. The young man might not be running with dissidents, but she feared he spent too much time at the Belmont Park Race Track, hanging out with the trainers and betting on the horses. She wanted him to go to a local college and had offered to pay for it, but he had his mind set on winning big. She hoped he did.
“Are Loki and Thor all right?” she asked the moment he answered.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m looking at them in their stalls right now, PC. What’s wrong?”
PC was short for Princess Cierra. Cullen had a slight attitude when it came to people with money as did many youths who’d grown up economically depressed. He’d mellowed some since coming to America. “Nothing specific. I’m hiring a couple of security guards. So expect them sometime today.”
“Things with Sheik Diesel go bad? That’s a shame. All that money.”
“Money isn’t everything. Hassan and I didn’t really ever have a ‘thing’ to go bad in the first place.”
“Money is everything. His trainers talk badly about ya, ya know. Ya want me to punch them for you?”
“No, Cullen. No fighting. Just ignore them.” She hadn’t been riding or out to dinner with Hassan since August of last year. Why were his men even talking about her now?
“Your call. What time is your flight today?”
“Didn’t ya say you were flying to Savannah?”
Bloody hell, she had to let James know she wouldn’t be coming to his St. Patrick’s Day party. She’d gone down to get her mail and let the doorman know she’d be gone for the weekend but had completely forgotten everything when he handed her an envelope left for her at the entry door. She’d opened, seen the threat, to Pegasus and the rest had been a blur.
“Are you all right, PC?”
“I’m grand. Uh, just a change of plans. I’ll be out in the morning to see the horses.”
Cullen laughed. “Don’t come too early. They’re having pints for us poor gratfers in the garage tonight while the laudy daws hooley in the club house.”
Distracted, she told him to have a good time, hung up, and then quickly texted James that she wouldn’t make it to his party tonight.
She’d wanted to see James again. Wanted to see the seductive curve of his smile, feel the heat of his blue gaze, and lose herself in the deep timbre of his southern drawl as he shared stories about the Savannah. Its history, its ghosts, and its people. The founder, James Oglethorpe had actually—among other things—banned attorneys from settling in his utopia. Considering her most annoying older brother, Donovan, was such a creature, she’d delighted in the tale. Meeting James at Christmas and spending the day with him touring Savannah had been magical and healing for her. It had been the first easy breath she’d been able to draw after the attack in her condo even though her aunt and her cousin had come immediately from Ireland to be with her. Her brothers didn’t know about the trouble and she didn’t want them to know. They’d been dead set against her flight from the family nest, and she was determined to prove them wrong.
Whether it had been the love-filled home of James’s parents, or the balmy weather in comparison to New York’s icy chill, she’d fallen in love with Savannah at Christmas time. More than once since then, she’d thought about buying an equestrian estate in the south and moving her stables to America.
If she’d acted on that idea, maybe she wouldn’t be sitting here now in the middle of a nightmare. She wouldn’t be about to ring Hassan and ask him to dinner and to help find her horse. She’d be on her way to see James. She wouldn’t be about to look a devil in the eye, she’d be drowning in bedroom blues that gave flight to her deepest fantasies.
As she braced herself to return Hassan’s call and make plans for him to play the hero, a brilliant idea swept her off her feet. Why not fabricate an engagement?
If she could convince Hassan of her engagement, would he return her horse and move on?
She didn’t think she was being paranoid or unfair by connecting Hassan to Pegasus’s horse-napping. Since returning to Manhattan a week ago, Hassan had sent her gifts every day and had asked her to dinner, trying to court her all over again.
She’d returned the gifts and politely turned down each invitation, saying last minute details of the equestrian charity ball she had committed to host next weekend had her swamped. He’d responded he was available if she needed him. She hadn’t—until Pegasus had been stolen.