Story Excerpt
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

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~ Donnell ~

Donnell Blaecleah was less than pleased that they were going back to Ireland, especially since they were taking the entire family. He didn't mind going on vacation with them. He even looked forward to it. It was the whole going back to Ireland thing he had a problem with.

When he had run away with Alani all those years ago, he knew going back would be dicey. The warrant for his arrest that had been issued every single year since then proved that. It didn't matter that Alani's brother Daley had been the one to make sure the warrant was reissued every year. Her parents still knew about it.

He would be the first to admit he held a lot of resentment toward them. They had tried to force Alani to marry some old codger, even after they discovered she was pregnant with their son. They hadn't cared that he was the biological father. He hadn't been good enough because he didn't come from money.

There was a part of him that always felt as if he wasn't good enough for Alani. She was sweet, kind, and loving. Loyal to a fault. She had agreed to run away with him and she had stood by his side for most of his life.

She was an angel sent from heaven.

His angel.

He refused to give her back.

Donnell set the last suitcase on the floor next to the front door and then headed for the kitchen where he knew he'd find Alani. "Everything is ready to go in the morning, love. We just have to load it up in the car before we go to bed."

"Thank you, dear." Ma didn't even look up from the food she was cooking on the stove. "Can you set the table? The boys should be here soon and dinner is just about ready."

"I can't believe you're cooking a huge meal the night before we fly to another country."

"We still have to eat, Donnell."

They did, but she didn't have to make a big meal for every member of their family. That was a lot of work for her. Donnell would help, but he knew better than to get in her way. That was how you got whopped with a wooden spoon.

He grabbed plates and utensils for everyone in the family and then carried them into the dining room. He really did need to think about making Ma a new table. It only sat fourteen comfortably, eighteen if they squeezed in like sardines. There were almost twenty members of their close family. If they had guests, it was standing room only.

Donnell pulled out the extra chairs, including their only granddaughter's highchair. Their grandsons Niall and Aidan were old enough to sit in booster seats, but baby Alani was only two and a half. It was easier to keep her contained when eating, both on whoever was feeding her and the poor sap tasked with cleaning up after her when she was done.

After he was done setting the table, Donnell grabbed the salt and pepper shakers, the butter, and glasses for everyone. He was an old hand at this, having set the table more nights than he cared to remember. The boys used to do it when they were growing up, but they had been adults now for a very long time, leaving the task to their Da.

He didn't mind.

"How many hot pads, Ma?"


Donnell grabbed the black metal hot pads out of the cabinet drawer and set them in the middle of the table before walking back into the kitchen. "Anything I can carry into the dining room for you?"

"Grab the mashed potatoes and then come back for the roast."

"Yes, dear."

The smells inside the kitchen were making his mouth water. While he had fallen in love with Alani due to her generous heart and the twinkle of laughter in her eyes, he had lucked out when she learned to cook. It had been a few hard years until the pampered princess of the Keegan family had learned to read a recipe. Until she did, he'd eaten a few things he still couldn't identify.

Donnell carried the large pot of mashed potatoes to the table and then went back for the roast. By the time he did, Ma was pulling the gravy off the stove.

"There's salad in the fridge."

Donnell opened the fridge and grabbed the bowl of salad she had made. Ma didn't simply toss a bunch of lettuce around. She cut up cherry tomatoes she had grown herself, added cucumber, and sometimes sliced mandarin oranges. It was a weird combination, but it worked.

The door opened just as he put the last of the food on the table and his family starting walking in. Donnell took his place at the head of the table, with Alani sitting down on his left hand side as she always did. It was her spot. It was closest to his heart.

Donnell glanced over when he felt Alani's hand rest over the top of his. She nodded toward their family members as they came in and took their seats.

"That's why we'll be back here in a week," she said. "This is where we belong."

Donnell had no argument for that.