Excerpt: Wild Moonlight
Book Three: The O’Byrne Brides
“Oh, God.” With a groan, Niall O’Byrne rolled onto his back upon the dock and stared at the brilliant full moon shining down upon him.
Mocking him. Laughing at him. The cold heartless orb daring him to raise the wineskin to his mouth for another swallow…although Niall was so drunk that he doubted he could lift his arm.
He’d been drunk for two months and this night was no different.
The same dock. The same raucous laughter from the riverside tavern that he’d stumbled out of only moments before. Or was it an hour past now? Who could say? All he knew was that these wild-haired Ostmen could drink more than any men he’d ever known, although he’d done his very best to keep up with them.
Sleep like the dead all day, choke down enough food to stay alive, and then drink long into the night until he passed out again upon the dock where he lay now, tormented by visions of Caitlin MacMurrough.
Damn her, why would she not leave him in peace? With ships from countless ports lined up along the dock and the dark water of the River Liffey coursing beneath him, Niall squinted against the moonlight.
Why did the silvery beams have to remind him so torturously of her long blond hair that had once slipped like silk between his fingers? Why could he not forget the incredible emerald green of her eyes? The softness of her skin? The beauty of her smile? Her sweet laughter? Her kiss…ah, God, her kiss! Damn it all, he clearly wasn’t drunk enough yet!
Now Niall lifted the wineskin above him to squeeze the tart liquid into his mouth, though he missed and sprayed his bearded face and the front of his tunic. Cursing under his breath, he used his thumb to wipe droplets of wine from his ear and then attempted to sit up—only to collapse back onto the dock.
Aye, perhaps that merciful oblivion where he felt nothing, remembered nothing, was closing in upon him after all. He shut his eyes against the relentless moonlight and the taunting visions of Caitlin, his beloved Caitlin—no, the treacherous and fickle Caitlin!
“Damn all women,” Niall muttered, rolling with effort onto his side. “Damn them to hell—what the devil?”
He had felt the sharp kick to his shin even as he heard a piercing shriek. Grimacing in pain, he glanced up to see a wild flash of white fly past him.
Fly past him with arms flailing as the screeching apparition toppled headfirst from the dock and into the River Liffey, splashing Niall with cold water.
This time he did sit up, but he heard nothing. Only silence. Had he imagined that someone had just fallen into the river?
Then Niall saw it, a slim white arm in the moonlight breaking through the surface as if grabbing for something, anything to hold onto even as a desperate cry burst from the woman’s throat.
“Help me! Please!”
She disappeared as suddenly, her head and then her arm slipping between the lapping water even as Niall hauled himself to his feet. He didn’t think, he didn’t blink, but dove into the river at the spot where he’d just seen the woman sink below the surface.