There is also a down side.
When you write one book you hope and pray readers will like it. If you're good at your craft they usually do, but there is always the chance your book will flop, for whatever reason, and it may be something as simple as a glutted market that particular month. Sales can be slow or nearly non-existent. You feel terrible, disappointed, even questioning your abilities as an author, but in the end it's one book. Hopefully you have others that have done well, a decent back-list of successes. You pick yourself up, dust off your ego and carry on. It's just what we do.
Series writing feels different, especially if the previous books have done well, very well. Readers loved them. There are expectations. You feel an obligation to give them a story as good or preferably better than the books that came before. You feel pressure, angst, and constantly question your skill as a writer. Kiss Me, O'Malley was this book for me.
Emotionally I was a wreck, yet this book somehow remained important to me.
Perhaps it was because Maeve and Sean were basically around our ages when I started the series. They had grown children, or nearly grown if you count Bridget, lol, grandchildren, and a rich life filled with family, humor, love.
There were many things to consider as I tried to move forward. Because of this couple's love for one another, their commitment to each other, an entire world had been created. I was terrified of screwing up 'their' story. Can one poorly written book ruin an entire series? Can it smash an author's career to smithereens? I don't know.
The time frame was not a problem. The book takes place in the seventies. Okay, cool. I know all about the seventies. I fell in love with Bill in the seventies, but it also takes place in Ireland, so back up and do some research, a lot of research. In the end I don't think it was the problem I anticipated. I worked my way around it as best I could and tried to keep the dialect fairly accurate.
There was also the 'ew' factor. I haven't spelled it right but we all know what it is, the noise younger people make when they think of older ones having sex. The readers already know Maeve and Sean as the matriarch and patriarch of The O'Malley clan. How far should I go, how far could I go as far as sex, dd, or kink without grossing out younger readers?
Of course I saw them as a young, passionate, fiery couple. I saw Maeve's luxurious long auburn hair, Sean's masculine, strong body. I understood her independent streak, her sharp wit and sassy attitude. I felt his stubborn determination to have her, win her, but would readers buy it when they already knew them as older and settled?
I agonized over some of this. How could I write a sexy, funny, romantic novel when I was gutted? Was it a mistake to write it at all?
I've been asked hundreds of times to continue the series. Readers wanted Sean and Maeve's story, Noah and Colleen's, even Patrick and Molly's. I've even had letters suggesting some of the grandchildren should be getting older by now, maybe Jason has a story. While I'm not ready to go that far, I do have a story in the works in which Colleen's wild pursuit of Noah backfires on her, but I felt as though I couldn't continue with that until Maeve and Sean had their day.
Finally I bit the bullet and finished it. I don't know how good it is, I never do. I'm not sure any honest author knows whether they've hit the mark or not. All I can say is that I've written them how I imagined them from the beginning and hope readers like it.
Kiss Me, O'Malley
Maeve had her eye on Sean O’Malley ever since she made her first communion at St. Patrick’s. He was an altar boy a few years older than her and while he had an angelic face she knew there was more to the tall young man than met the eye. He had a reputation; at least that’s was what the older girls whispered about him. What that meant exactly she didn’t quite grasp, but she was impressed just the same. Anything that caused the nuns to scowl in his direction was interesting. He always smiled back at them and spoke respectfully, but the nuns would tsk, frown and shake their heads as they walked away. It was almost as though they wished he would do something they could reprimand him for.
Her fascination didn’t end when he turned fifteen and no longer lit the candles in church. Each Sunday she looked for him. He was absent more than he was present, but that didn’t upset her. She knew in her heart he was a good boy, despite what others might say.
As she grew older, Sean always seemed to be in the vicinity when she got herself in hot water. He’d either whisk her away or plant his big body between her and whatever threat presented itself. Sometimes it was other boys bothering her for no reason she could determine and sometimes it was something foolish she’d done bringing trouble down on her own head.
The nuns weren’t fond of make-up. Unfortunately Maeve was very fond of Strawberry Kiss lipstick.
“Wipe that off,” he’d hiss as he passed her in the hall. Or “don’t think I can’t tell that you’ve rolled your skirt up.” One day he herded her toward the row of lockers in the hall and whispered in her ear. “I could still smell that perfume in the gym an hour after you’d left it. Sooner or later you’re goin’ to be called to task about that. Go back to the sweet scent you use to wear,” he demanded before walking away.
Affronted Maeve sniffed her sweater. Well, maybe it was a bit much but it was called Parisian Mist and wearing it made her feel grown up.
It was a sad day when he graduated. That summer, before he went off to college, she hardly saw him unless she happened to stroll by Woodies where he worked. Occasionally he was outside, loading a truck, his white tee-shirt straining across his chest, the muscles in his arms bulging.
It was the early seventies and while her parents had a fit, she’d still managed to cajole them into letting her buy some of the latest fashions. Of course they had no idea the skirts she bought could all be rolled up at the waist until they classified as miniskirts. Or that the shorts she bought were technically called ‘hot pants.’ Platform shoes added many inches to her height and wearing them she felt mature. Stopping outside the wire fence at Woodies she sent her girlfriends on ahead and watched Sean working. He looked up and saw her. She smiled and waved. After wiping the sweat from his brow he stared at her, his hands planted on his hips before his long-legged stride brought him to the fence.
“Jesus Maeve, what the devil are ya doin’?” he demanded.
“Nothin’. My friends and I are goin’ shoppin’. Why?”
“Dressed like that?”
“Aye, what wrong with the way I’m dressed, not that it’s any concern of yours?” she asked, slightly stung by his attitude.
“For one thing you’re advertisin’ somethin’ that’s not available,” he snapped.
“How do you know what’s available and what isn’t,” she challenged, tossing her auburn hair over her shoulder.
“Because I know you’re not yet sixteen, darlin’,” he said softly, leaning closer.
Maeve’s heart raced. Tipping her head back she looked into his eyes.
“I also know that when it is available, tis mine. I’ll be leavin’ soon so you’d better behave while I’m gone. If you don’t, when your Da gets done skelpin’ you I’ll be waitin’ in line to give you the worst spankin’ of your young life. Do you understand?”
“No,” she breathed, her knees shaking.
“You will,” he assured her with a gentle smile. “Now go home and wash that muck off your face before I do it with that hose over there,” he insisted pointing to a big hose on the outside of the building. “And put some proper clothes on or I’ll give you a lickin’ right here. Those shorts don’t cover much so I should be able to do a proper job of it.”
Maeve drew back and straightened her spine with a snap.
“I’ll do as I please, Sean O’Malley and you can go straight to the devil,” she hissed taking a step back when his face darkened.
“Aye, that may be where I’m headed darlin’,” he conceded with a grin, “but you’re headin’ home to change,” he insisted, pointing in the direction she’d come from.
“No I’m not,” she said, stomping her foot. “I’m goin’ with my friends!”
“Martin is it lunch time yet?” he called to a man behind him working on loading another truck. “I find I’ve got an errand to run,” he continued taking off his leather gloves.
“Sure Sean, go ahead. I’ll cover for you” the man replied with a grunt.
Maeve shivered and took another step back from the fence. There was no doubt he meant exactly as he said. With a huff she glared at him, pivoted on her platform sandals and stomped off in the direction he indicated.
Sean laughed. “You can use a little of the strawberry lip paint,” he called after her. “I fancy that one.”
“Kiss my arse, O’Malley,” she yelled over her shoulder.
“Oh I will, with my lips and my hand if you don’t have a care and mind me,” he whispered watching her bottom swing. “Someday.”
Maeve spent the next three years as a typical teenager. She went to parties, dances and got decent grades in school. Her first kiss was disappointing, as was smoking a joint. Instead of feeling all happy as she expected, she got a little paranoid, wondering if somehow, someway he’d find out. For some reason, Sean’s threat stuck like glue and although she only saw him once in a while at Mass when he was home for a school holiday she often wondered what he knew and what he didn’t.
He’d clearly said he intended to be first in line when she became available and at seventeen it seemed he might be a little late. As her eighteenth birthday neared she determined he was full of crap. There’d been plenty of times he could have approached her after church and he hadn’t. There was also the telephone and any idiot could write a note, if not a letter.
No, he’d been playing with her that day, teasing the naive young girl who obviously had a crush on him. She blushed knowing she’d been transparent and decided that strolling by his place of employment dressed as a South Street hooker hadn’t been her finest hour. At the time she hadn’t even realized how much she worshiped him. Then the big jerk threatened her. That cooled her ardor. How dare he act like he could intimidate her? Well actually he had intimidated her, she admitted. The thought of being on the receiving end of a spanking from Sean O’Malley was not something to joke about. The man had muscles on his muscles and an attitude to match. She’d never seen him back down from a fight; he had a ‘don’t mess with me assertiveness’ and the reputation to back it up.
On the other hand he’d always looked out for her, coming between her and disaster many times. He could be kind, gentle and thoughtful. On her seventeenth birthday she received a dozen yellow roses with a card that said ‘Enjoy your birthday, but not too much’. It wasn’t signed, so they could have been from anyone and she refused to believe they were from him.
Maeve dated a few boys, but nothing serious developed. She didn’t like being pawed and for some reason that seemed to be their main objective. “What are you saving it for?” was a nasty question she heard more than once and that was usually the last date. In truth, she wasn’t sure herself. Most of her girlfriends had given it up long ago. She tried to convince herself she remained ‘a good girl’ because of her religious beliefs, but part of her suspected it had something to do with The O’Malley’s warning, which was just stupid. He was nowhere around and would probably never know nor care what she did after all this time. It was a silly school girl infatuation and it was over.
A few days before her eighteenth birthday, she joined some friends to hang out in the field behind the school. They built a campfire and someone brought along a boom box. Soon they were partying and attracted another group of kids from a nearby Public school. A cute boy visiting his cousins from the states named Tony singled her out immediately and Maeve was flattered as her girlfriends looked at her with envy. From his pack he produced several bottles of wine which began to make the rounds. Handing Maeve an unopened bottle called Tickle Pink he announced that it was hers alone in honor of her birthday.
Smiling he opened it and handed it to her. Taking a small sip she was surprised how good it was. It did tickle her nose and tasted a bit like carbonated fruit juice, not at all like the heavy communion wine she was used to. She shared her bottle with Tony who only took a few sips and all too soon she was holding it upside down with a pout on her face.
“Aw, tis all gone,” she giggled.
“That’s okay babe,” he assured her. “I’ve got something else.” Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a packet of pills and held out his hand to her.
Maeve shook her head.
“Come on, babe,” he pleaded. “These are nothing, just a few ludes. Have a couple. They’ll make you feel great.”
Cautiously Maeve took one pill and looked it over. It was small, how much harm could it do she thought? Popping it in her mouth she glanced around and saw that most of the kids had paired off and moved beyond the light of the fire. Her world was beginning to spin when Tony eased her onto her back.
His kisses were sweet, she sighed. If another man’s face appeared in her mind, so what. This boyo was here now. She hardly felt his fingers sliding under her sweater. It wasn’t until she heard the snap of her jeans pop open that she tried to stop him. That tiny noise sounded as loud as a shotgun.
“No Tony, stop,” she said faintly, reaching to capture his hand as it slid down the front of her jeans.
“Come on, it will be fun,” he promised, lowering his face to her breasts.
“No, I don’t want to.” Trying to push him away she found her arms were about as strong as noodles. A tear slipped into her hair as she realized what she’d done. O’Malley was going to kill her.
As though she’d conjured him, he suddenly appeared between her and the stars, his big body blocking out the light from the fire. His face was completely in shadow, but there was no mistaking his sheer size, or the growl that came from his throat. He picked Tony up by the scruff of the neck, shaking him as though he were a puppy.
“What did you give her?” he demanded in a voice Maeve had never heard before.
“Nothing man,” Tony squealed struggling to get away. “She just had a little cheap wine.”
“What did you give her?” Sean repeated, tightening his grip on the boy’s throat.
“A lude man,” Tony whined as his hand clawed at Sean’s. “Shit, she only took one. It’s no big deal. She’ll be fine.”
“How long ago?”
“I don’t know, maybe ten minutes. She’s just drunk.”
Maeve lay sprawled on the ground watching the scene unfold between the boy and O’Malley. She hoped when he killed her he did it quickly because there was a very good chance she was going to throw up. If that happened she’d have to lay in it because she sure as hell couldn’t get up.
Sean tossed the kid away, enjoying his yelp when he hit the ground. Looking at Maeve he went down on one knee, gently tucked her breast back into her bra, and pulled down her sweater. He tried not to notice her lacy underwear as he zipped her jeans and snapped them.
Her expression was curious, but she neither moved nor spoke, something that worried him.
“Come on, darlin’” he said, taking her under her arms. “Let’s get you up.” He held her by her waist once he had her upright. Her legs seemed to be useless. Moving her toward the light of the fire he was just getting ready to stick his big finger down her throat when she began to vomit. Supporting her with one arm he gathered her long auburn hair in his other fist.
It was over in a few minutes. When she looked up at him she was white as a ghost and sweating profusely.
“Can you walk?” he asked after she wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her sweater.
She nodded but when he took her arm to lead her away she didn’t get three steps before she went to her knees. Scooping her into his arms he carried her away into the dark, her head resting weakly on his shoulder.
“We’re not goin’ to discuss this tonight, darlin’” he told her as he drove her home. She looked both terrible and terrified as she leaned against her door with the window open and let the cool night air sweep over her. “Tell your Ma that you must have eaten somethin’ bad and that when you started gettin’ sick you called me for a lift.”
“I didn’t even know you were home.”
“They don’t know that.”
“So you want me to lie? To my own parents?” she asked with a touch of sarcasm in her voice.
“No, don’t lie. Tell them that their daughter went off with some friends, met up with strangers and got good and drunk on cheap wine. Then she took an illegal drug from one of them and almost got raped. Don’t forget the possibility that you could be presentin’ ‘em with their first grandbabe in nine months if things had turned out differently,” he snapped. “Aye, you sassy little bit, I want you to lie.”
“Okay, I’m sorry,” she sniffed, a sob escaping.
“Don’t cry darlin’,” he advised her. “There’ll be plenty of time for that later.”
“What do you mean?” she whispered.
“I think you know exactly what I mean, Maeve my girl,” he replied calmly.
“No, no I don’t,” she insisted, turning to face him.
“Well if you don’t, you should. I told you three years ago how things stood between us and don’t go tryin’ to deny it. I warned you not to be givin’ something away that belongs to me.”
“And just what do you think belongs to you, O’Malley? You haven’t called me, haven’t written and barely spoken to me when we saw each other at Mass. And from this I’m supposed to know that I somehow belong to you?” she demanded.
“No, you’re supposed to know because I told you, right out and proper like. And don’t think I haven’t been keepin’ an eye on you darlin’ because I have. The way I see it you have quite a few things to atone for.”
“Oh, I do, do I?”
“Aye, you certainly do.”
“Like the way you let Kelly Rourke kiss you in the sanctuary after choir practice.”
“How do you know about that?” she gasped. “And I didn’t let him kiss me, he just did it.”
“You should have slapped his face. I haven’t even kissed you yet and I’m going to wed you.”
“Who says? What makes you think I’d marry you anyway?”
“I don’t think, I know,” he replied confidently.
Maeve snorted as Sean pulled up in front of her house.
“I’ll pick you up after school tomorrow,” he stated, turning to face her as he shut the car off.
“Don’t bother,” she shot back, opening the door.
“Little lass, you’re playin’ with fire and you’re goin’ to get burnt in more ways than one. You’ve loved me since you were seven so don’t try to deny it, and I’ve loved you too. I’ve been waitin’ for you to grow up, but it’s come to me that you might need a man’s firm hand in order to do that. After tonight I’m more convinced than ever. I need to marry you before you get yourself into trouble you can’t get out of. Now get up the yard before I forget that you’re not feelin’ well. I’ll be waitin’ for you tomorrow.”
“There’s no law against waitin’, O’Malley,” she said with a smile. “I’ve been waitin’ for three years.” Slamming the door she ran up the steps to her house.
©2017 Stevie MacFarlane
This book is not available yet. I'll be submitting it to my publisher, Blushing Books, on Monday. After that it's out of my hands and will be released on their time table, providing they like it. I wanted to post the first chapter for those of you who have always supported me and waited so long and so patiently for this book. Thank you.
Please feel free to comment.
Photo credit: Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_dundanim'>dundanim / 123RF Stock Photo</a>