The Little Man Pub, Dublin City
“Kieran?” called the young man at the door.
Kieran Vaughan looked up from where he sat on a tattered brown sofa. In the tiny storage room, kegs of beer and boxes of crisps lined one wall and cases of hard liquor lined another. A single naked bulb suspended from the ceiling barely illuminated the room, which doubled as a catchall for anything that probably should have been thrown away. The sofa and side table had been an afterthought when Murph decided to start entertaining his patrons. It certainly wasn’t the dressing room he’d dreamed of. And not for the first time, Kieran wondered if he should count himself amongst the throwaways.
“What?” Kieran knew his reply was a little too abrupt and attributed his irritability to the twisting in his stomach. He set his pint onto the table, still half-full.
He was expecting Murph with his pay, but instead, his gaze met with the stagehand, Murph’s 15-year-old son, John.
John was reedy and nervous by nature. His father wasn’t an easy man to work for, and Kieran imagined not easy to live with either. John’s skittishness was obvious when he stepped into the room, his narrow eyes down-turned.
“Da told me to give ye this.”
John practically threw a scrap of paper at him then scurried from the room. Kieran gave it a cursory glance. It simply read: ‘Meet me at the bar. Eilis Kennedy.’
He tossed the note onto the grimy table. It landed beside his pint glass.
He sank back against the lumpy sofa and shut his eyes, blocking out his surroundings.
How had he gotten himself into such a mess?
This wasn’t what he’d expected when he’d set out to play his music. Seedy pubs, cheap drunks, and slappers whose ages couldn’t be determined from all the make-up they wore. Not that anyone was looking at their faces when their arses were hanging out from under their miniskirts.
His stomach roiled again at the thought of the women who frequented The Little Man Pub.
“Feckin’ hell!” The curse choked him.
What the hell was he doing here anyway? If he wanted to make it big, America was the place to be. No one in Ireland wanted to hear him play the blues. If any race of people knew the blues, it was the Irish. They didn’t need the likes of him reminding them.
The sound of the latch turning on the door snapped Kieran out of his thoughts. He opened his eyes to a short, scruffy-faced man whose belly preceded him into the room, as did the smell of the man’s sweat-stained shirt. Kieran’s heart leapt in his chest. As unsavory as Murphy was, the man still held his livelihood in the palm of his hand.
Kieran hauled himself out of the old sofa and strode over to the sullen little man and snatched the envelope out of his hands, tearing open the flap. His anticipation died at the contents.
“What is this then? Forty euro?”
“What can I say, boyo? Slow night.” Murphy shrugged, totally unsympathetic.
“What am I supposed to do with forty fecking euro?” Kieran tossed the money onto the table beside the slapper's note then ran his fingers through his hair. He knew his pay was based on the amount of drinks sold at the bar on nights he performed. This forty euro told Kieran sales had been poor tonight. He knew it wasn’t true, but getting Murph to admit it would be like trying to convince the man that a bath would make him a more pleasant person, or at least less of an assault on people around him.
“That’s your problem, not mine. But if ye don’t start bringin’ in the punters, I’ll be finding me someone else to take me stage and ye’ll be out on yer arse, wishin’ ye were still bringin’ in the forty feckin’ euro for ninety minutes of that catterwallerin’ ye call music.” Murph stepped through the door to leave then turned back. He grinned, showing missing front teeth. “Don’t look so glum, lad. Ye could be on the Dole.”
“Feck off with yourself, Murph!” Kieran launched the pint glass at the door as it shut behind the little man. Shards of glass sprayed out, stout staining the door and wall. He heard the old man laughing in the corridor.
Anger rose in Kieran. Not at Murph, but at himself. A blues guitarist wasn’t going to get noticed playing in a two-bit pub on Dublin’s Northside. The Irish wanted U2, Boyzone and Paddy fecking Casey, not a wannabe blues guitarist like Kieran Vaughan.
He loved playing the blues. The blues ran through his blood as if it were his own special life force. But if he was going to get noticed, he was going to have to go to America. He abhorred the idea of it, but he loved the music. He just hated the thought of leaving Ireland more. And Gráinne. She was all he had left. If he lost her for the sake of a pipedream, he would be nothing and there would be nothing left for him to live for.
If I want a better life I have to do something about it.
He’d suffered through years of bloody fingers from long hours practicing on steel strings to play to the best of his abilities. He’d thought he was getting somewhere with his last music venture, only to see it destroyed before his eyes because of a dishonest business partner. It seemed like years of one step forward and two steps back. Now he found himself resorting to playing in seedy pubs to repay his debts and no hopes of getting heard. He was failing to make something of all his hard work.
Holding onto his tattered pride was getting more difficult each day. There had to be a compromise somewhere. There just had to be.
Just once he’d like to be offered the brass ring and go for it.
Just once he wanted something in his life to go the way he’d planned.
Just once he wanted to be someone.
Fed up, he kicked the guitar case lid closed and flipped the latch with his booted toe. He shrugged into his leather jacket and shoved the forty euro into his pocket. He considered the note on the table. Maybe this Eilis could help him forget his troubles, at least for tonight, but the thought if it disgusted him. He just wanted to go home.
Guitar in hand, he flipped up his jacket collar and headed for the back door.
The weather outside The Little Man Pub was better than inside, even though it was pissing rain. The dark side lane suited his foul mood. Thanks to late night mischief-makers, there were few working streetlights, which is why a car just missed him as it sped past. Its tire hit a pothole and splashed dirty rainwater up the front of him.
“Feckin’ hell!” he bit out for the second time tonight. “Bloody feckin’ hell.”
♥ ♥ ♥
Eilis Kennedy stepped from the steaming shower and wrapped herself in a thick, white terrycloth towel. She’d bound up her hair to keep it dry, but now she let it down. She watched the coppery curls fall about her bare shoulders in the foggy mirror, her reflection an apparition in the haze.
She swiped her hand across the mirror to clear some of the fog then applied moisturizer.
She’d had a late night last night, as was evident by the dark circles under her eyes. She’d waited until closing time, amongst unsavory types she wouldn’t like to encounter on a dark street, but she still hadn’t met the man she'd been there to meet.
By the time she had left, she was beyond tired and assumed it was the pub’s warm stout that had kept her awake all night rather than the anticipation of what she was about to do.
The music industry was a tough game to play. Too much competition. Too many long hours. Too many people stepping on everyone else around them trying to make it, trying to get a break.
Not just musicians either. Those behind the scenes too. Producers, sponsors, representatives, even the roadies; they all stepped over one another trying to get ahead in the industry, trying to get themselves discovered, trying to be that rare overnight success. She’d met them all. The one she wanted to meet the most had eluded her last night.
She stepped away from the mirror, her reflection disappearing in the mist, and went into the bedroom. Her clothes were already laid out—a stylish Brown Thomas two-piece navy suit. The white blouse had dainty pearl buttons at the front closure. Blue pumps completed the professional appearance she strived to perpetuate.
Eilis dropped the towel to the floor then bent to retrieve the conservative panties and bra lying beside the suit. She put them on then cast a quick glance at her reflection in the full length mirror across the room. She sighed and looked away. Nothing had been invented yet to disguise her full figure. The tummy-control panties with the stiff fabric and unforgiving elastic controlled nothing, and the bra reminded her of something her late Aunt Assumpta would have worn.
Eilis sighed, acquiescing. She had more rolls than Bewley’s bakery counter.
What did she care? No one would see her undergarments anyway. Business would always come first for a woman like her. If she wanted to make it in this industry she’d have to put her personal desires aside. Even though what she wanted most at this very moment was a comfortable bra.
When she’d finished dressing, she turned back to the mirror. She bound her coppery hair into a professional twist and was ready for business, pushing her personal under-achievements aside for the day.
Just then her mobile rang.
“Eilis Kennedy,” she answered, not bothering to check caller ID.
“Eilis, when are you due into the office?”
She cringed. He couldn’t seem to leave her alone for two minutes. Fergus Manley was her boss and most avid pursuer. He could call her the Ice Queen all he wanted, but no one knew how deep her passions ran. Passion for her work and passion for the music. Music was her true love now that he-who-shall-remain-nameless was out of her life.
“I told you yesterday, I have a meeting this morning and then I’ll be in.”
“Make it snappy. I want you in my office as soon as.”
“Is there something wrong? I’m sure Sinead can handle things until I get there.” Sinead was her assistant, one of the best she’d had, but she was sure it was just a matter of time before Fergus got to her too.
She heard him shuffling papers over the receiver. “This requires your attention, Kennedy. Get a move on.”
“Fergus, I’ve asked you to stop calling me that.”
“Ooh, PMSing? You can leave that at home. See you soon.”
Before she had a chance to give him a piece of her mind, he disconnected. She didn’t need any distractions this morning. She was nervous enough already. She knew talent when she heard it, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t nervous meeting new people.
She tossed her phone on the bed and went to brush her teeth. When she was done, she went downstairs to where she’d left her briefcase on the hall table beside an antique hallstand. She grabbed her coat off the hook and put it on, then checked her appearance one last time in the mirror. Grabbing her briefcase and house keys off the little marble table attached to the stand, she opened the door and stepped onto her front steps.
Things would change for her. They had to. She’d worked too hard, too many long hours, given up too much to let her career slip away unnoticed.
Eilis knew she could instantly advance her position at work. It would take just one thing. The one thing she would never give up, even if it meant eating nothing but tea and toast in her restored Georgian terrace house on Merrion Square for the rest of her days. She’d worked hard for her posh Dublin 2 address.
She had to make it. She would make it. She would compromise where she must to make it work, but she would never give Fergus what he wanted.
She looked at her watch as she scanned the street for a taxi. Since Kieran Vaughan hadn't come to her last night, she would go to him. He had a gift. Couldn’t he see that? He had rare talent and she was the person to get him noticed. He was as much her big break as she was his.
She hailed a passing taxi, climbed into the back seat, and gave the driver the Northside address of The Little Man Pub.
Excerpted from "Rhythm of My Heart (Irish Pride Series, book 1)" by Kemberlee Shortland. Copyright © 2014 by Kemberlee Shortland. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.