Happy St Patrick's Day! Come to Clancy's pub and tap your toes to the music. Hugh will bring you a beer and Steven and his friends will play you a tune. P.D. Singer has an excerpt from her story "O'Carolan's Seduction" for us.
A session wasn’t actually too bad, Hugh decided, though he’d have to wipe the music out of his brain later with a hefty dose of Beethoven. Musicians trickled in by ones and twos. Most of them seemed to know one another, calling greetings as they produced fiddles, guitars, flutes, and drums, joining in the music if they wandered in after the tune started.
“Where’s Lori?” every last one of them wanted to know, and Hugh felt a small pang for the camaraderie he wasn’t part of.
Still, the portly man with the mandolin produced a basket from some location only he knew and announced to the group, “Don’t forget the man behind the bar!”
The small wicker basket began to fill with singles and fives, much to Hugh’s delight, as the musicians tipped him for gratis drinks.
“Do we know a tune for our new friend?” the portly man asked.
“’The Maid Behind the Bar’ isn’t quite right, but…” the weedy fiddler replied, and no one made a better suggestion, so the group launched into something rollicking that had the other patrons patting the tables in rhythm and calling for another round.
“Emily!” the group shrieked as one, and a man with a bodhrán rang a flourish off his drum as a young woman with dark curls falling below her shoulders joined them.
Local royalty, Hugh decided, and added a slice of lemon to the glass of fizzy pop that was her payment for the beauty that came out of her. “Siúil, siúil, siúil a rún,” she sang in a warm, clear alto to a red-headed woman’s harping, and her pronunciation of the Gaeilge wasn’t too bad for words she must have learned phonetically. When she produced a tin whistle and the music moved on to a jig set, Hugh quit paying attention and went behind the bar to refill pitchers and clean glasses. Still, “siúil a rún” ran through his head and trickled out his lips very quietly.
“A pretty tune,” someone commented, making Hugh glance up to the speaker. Embarrassed at being caught singing against the current of the session, Hugh went silent and stared into the sink. He had to swallow hard to return his eyes to the speaker—the publican should not ignore the customer, but neither should he drool.
The newcomer had one hip hitched into the only available barstool and a black leather satchel slung over a shoulder. Stylish rectangular spectacles did nothing to obscure the dancing brown eyes or the sharp, regular features with just enough texture to put him on the north side of thirty. The light brown curls tumbling down to tickle his collar begged Hugh to run his hand through them. All that and a slight smile made Hugh chub up, leaving him grateful for the waist height of the bar’s lower counter.
“It is. Emily just sang it.” Hugh thought he’d covered his reaction quite well, and took his eyes away from the man as if he hadn’t just checked the fullness of everyone’s glasses a moment ago.
“You know Emily?”
“They called her by name.” Lori would know Emily, Hugh was sure; she would know the girl’s signature tunes and preferred rate of drinking, just the way everyone in the musicians’ corner seemed to know each other’s favorite sets.
“ O’Carolan’s Farewell to Drinking,” directed the portly man.
“Too early in the evening for that, Michael!” objected a man with a bouzouki. He’d moved past the gratis drinks early and was running a tab now.
“The right time for you, Josh,” quipped the leader. “Then O’Carolan’s Concerto—you lead it, Hannah.” A woman with waist-length blonde hair and a hunted look put her fiddle under her chin and led the musicians into a vaguely classical-sounding piece.
“I think I’ll pick up a stout first,” suggested the newcomer. “I don’t play much O’Carolan on the pipes—it would step all over Meggie’s harp. They’re giving me time to get settled.”
More royalty, Hugh thought numbly as he expertly laid a head on the glass of stout.
“I’m Steven,” the man offered as he collected the mug. “Steven Wigham.”
That sounded oddly familiar. “Hugh Kelly.” His accent must have deepened in his confusion, but the smile Steven gave him made the slip worthwhile.
Ah, there might be a romance brewin'...
Hugh doesn’t care much for the traditional Irish music and is determined not to tap his toes along with the reels, jigs, and the O’Carolan tunes, but the music and Steven are irresistible. Steven gives Hugh a piping lesson, and the tune they play ought to be called “O’Carolan’s Seduction.”
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