So, I thought it would be fun to do something a little different, and it gives me a chance to show off the beautiful cover for The Gael and the Goddess which Bianca Sommerland created for me after seeing my (admittedly nowhere NEAR as lovely) attempt. If you enjoy this first chapter, I hope you’ll check out the buy link at the bottom of this post to get the whole story!
Even the heart of a goddess is subject to the whims of fate…
Every millennium, the Ocean Goddess, Yemala, makes a pilgrimage to the shore to continue good relations between land and wave. Leaving her watery realm in the hands of her Chancellor, the nymph Amphichrale, she travels to the surface for the first time in a thousand years. A lot has changed since she last surfaced, and the goddess immediately finds herself in the clutches of the mortal law—and unable to use her oceanic powers.
Liam McGrue is a hard-headed, hard-drinking, hardworking fisherman. He asks nothing of life but an easy catch during the day and a warm fire and a glass of whiskey at night. The fiery redhead who claims to have come from the sea itself intrigues him, and his rash, poetic Gaelic heart jumps to her defense and aid. But when he realizes she’s not daft or telling him a tale, that she really is who and what she claims to be, Liam will have to choose between his lonely life on the surface and a completely new existence beneath the waves as the consort of a goddess…
With a grunt, Liam McGrue vaulted the side of the Moira, his thirty-foot trawler. The small but sturdy boat was designed to be handled by one or two men easily, and Liam savored the freedom of not having to muster a large crew every time he pulled out of port. Less crew meant less expense and less division of the profits from the haul, because he didn’t need to concern himself with payroll or hauling the extra provisions and supplies required to keep a larger crew healthy.
In seconds he detached the line mooring the trawler to the small slip and stowed it. He mounted to the bridge and surveyed the sky out to sea with a practiced eye. The waves gleamed pale silver in the first light of dawn, and bobbed gently between the tiny spits of land that formed what passed for a harbor at Cionn Malhanna. Five generations of hardy, independent fishermen behind him had all but coded their knowledge into his genes. If that combined knowledge and his own considerable skill were anything to judge by, he could expect a smooth voyage and a fine catch today.
Inna, bless her, had packed a large basket brimming with sandwiches and a couple of pints of Guinness. He had enough food to keep him through two days, even if he ate as greedily as he liked. He wouldn’t be needing anything for a while, though. The Ulster fry she’d cooked him before he set out had filled his flat stomach nigh to bursting.
He grinned. Inna had become a combination of mother, sister, and wife to him over the years, tucking him into bed when he came home pissed, cooking his meals, and handling his dirty underthings with equal aplomb. Although she was twenty years his senior, she had remained a fine-looking woman, sturdy and strong, but feminine. In odd moments he wondered why she stayed on as his housekeeper. She could have found better and more gainful employment in Dublin or Galway or even Cork, for certain. Perhaps she might even have found a man who’d be willing to settle down with her. Marriage opportunities or not, she’d stayed on even after his father was lost at sea.
Why don’t ye marry her, then? The woman’s seen ye naked more than your own mum ever did, and she’s no’ hard to look at, even at her age.
Aye, but she’s told me I lost count of how many times that the last thing she wants is to get involved with a fisherman again.
Do you think Da and she had a romantic somethin’r other?
No. And even if they did, it’s no business of mine.
He snorted at himself. No time for woolgathering, boy-o. Ye’ve fish to be about catching.
Turning the ignition key produced a series of shudders and a low growl from belowdecks. With a sputter and a bump, the Moira grudgingly started into motion. Of a cold morning, it was not uncommon for the engine to refuse to turn over altogether, the basis of his frequent observation when he was in a dour mood that his da could as easily and a good deal more accurately have christened the trawler the Bitch than in honor of his own sainted mother. He pushed the throttle forward slowly, giving the engines just enough fuel to overcome the trawler’s own inertia and the force of the waves slapping against the hull. As the ribbon of water between slip and ship widened, Liam cranked the wheel to port, aiming for the tiny hole in the reef between the harbor and the open sea. After fifteen years guiding the Moira out of the harbor, he knew every inch of the area as intimately as he did the curve of his own hand. If he ever had a need to, he could pilot the trawler through the eye of a needle without so much as bumping the sides, and do it blindfolded to boot.
The trawler leapt forward as he pushed the throttle open a little more. While she didn’t have the sweeping, graceful lines of a yacht or a cigarette boat, the Moira responded to his touch on her controls as eagerly as a lover straining toward her release. She cut through the water as if anxious to be about her proper business of scooping Lir’s bounty from the sea and delivering it back to shore.
In minutes he guided the craft through the gap and set his GPS for the day’s fishing site with one hand while he lit a fag with the other. He’d have little enough to do until it came time to raise the nets and dump the catch into the trawler’s hold. The small crew of stevedores in port would handle the offloading, for which he’d pay them a flat rate for their time. If he’d had a crew he could manage it himself, but he knew the stevedores were always eager for work and grateful when they got it. Good men, most of them, many of them with wee ones not yet away from their mums’ breasts, who worked hard during the week to take care of their families, played hard on Saturday to relax their bodies, and prayed hard on Sunday to nourish their souls. And if they had themselves a wee nip of a Wednesday night or any other, well, who was to blame them? Certainly not Liam McGrue!
He smiled, blowing out smoke, and pressed the throttle to the stops, coaxing the last ounce of speed out of his craft. Her engines howled and throbbed as she leapt forward again, settling into a steady thirty knots per hour.
At this rate he’d have two and a half hours of cruising to reach his fishing area. Dropping the nets would take only fifteen minutes, and he would have seven hours to relax before he had to haul in the nets with the day’s catch and return to port. He’d make landfall about an hour before sunset, and the lads would have the holds picked clean before the sun’s lower rim met the sea. If he had a good day, he’d stand them all to a pint or two at Hugh McCormac’s tavern by way of a little extra gratitude for their hard work. He was nearly always the last fisherman into port at night, racing the sun to the western horizon. The stevedores knew his habits well and gave him no end of shite over it, but it was all good fun and he could give just as good as he got.
Setting the autopilot, he dug into the wicker basket, setting aside a large pile of sandwiches piled high with roast beef and Swiss cheese on crusty bakery rolls. Beneath the sandwiches, he found what he was looking for. Bless Inna’s sweet, matronly soul, she’d packed him a paperback novel. He raised an eyebrow at the unfamiliar title, smiled approval at the familiar author, and scanned the back cover copy. As a fan of police procedural novels and Irish novelists, not necessarily in that order, Liam appreciated a good yarn, and the reviews on the back cover looked promising.
He set the collision alarms to maximum volume and sensitivity and cut the radio by half, so idle chatter wouldn’t disturb him. Then he set another alarm to go off fifteen minutes before the Moira reached its destination, so he’d have plenty of time to get his mind back into the real world before he had to start earning his pay.
A quick scan of the horizon showed nothing but endless stormy blue fading into the brilliant blue only seen over the ocean, well away from land. The sun beamed down and some coastal terns whirled and screeched at each other in the air above, but otherwise his field of vision was clear every which way except for directly behind him, where Malin Head was already nigh lost to view under the waves. He grinned from ear to ear.
A fine day to be fishing, indeed, he thought, opening the book and scanning the dedications avidly. If the writer was going to go to all the trouble to put in a dedication or a note, he’d damned well go to the trouble to read it. He’d met a few authors who passed through Malin Head on vacation or on their way elsewhere, and managed to amass an enviable collection of signed paperbacks and hardcovers. When he quoted their dedications and notes verbatim, he’d left more than a few of them surprised. One, a sprightly fellow with thick glasses who’d written a book about a prison ship in the Killarney fjord, gasped, “Jaysus bleedin’ Christ, I didn’t think anyone actually read those damn things!”
“Aye, boy-o, there’s some of us readers left as do,” he muttered at the page as he flicked it to the next and Chapter One. Moments later, he was cheerfully engrossed in the story, the beeps of the navigation equipment and the chatter from the radio skidding across the top of his subconscious like seabirds swooping down to pluck a quick meal from the waves.