House Calls: Callaghan Brothers, Book 3, p.1
Callaghan Brothers, Volume 3
Published by Abbie Zanders, 2015.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. January 5, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Abbie Zanders.
Written by Abbie Zanders.
Table of Contents
House Calls (Callaghan Brothers, #3)
Before You Begin
Thanks for reading Michael and Maggie’s story
About the Author
Also by Abbie Zanders
Callaghan Brothers, Book 3
Before You Begin
WARNING: Due to strong language and graphic scenes of a sexual nature, this book is intended for mature (21+) readers only.
If these things offend you, then this book is not for you.
If, however, you like your alphas a little rough around the edges and some serious heat in your romance, then by all means, read on...
Special thanks to Aubrey Rose Cover Designs for this amazing cover!
Special thanks also go to Deb, Cindy, and Shelly (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) for reading the first draft and making invaluable suggestions. I could not have done this without your unending patience, support, and encouragement.
“Come on, Mags, it’ll be fun,” Sherri pleaded, her big blue eyes wide and pathetic. She sat at the massive walnut table, sipping Irish coffee and munching on the thin, delectable buttery sugar cookies. “And you so have to teach me the secret of making these. I can never get mine this thin. Makes all the difference in the world.”
Maggie Flynn paused with the coffee mug halfway to her lips. Sherri was the closest thing she had to a best friend, but she was also the first one to admit that she was definitely not the reincarnate of Betty Crocker or Sara Lee. No, Sherri’s skills definitely lay outside the kitchen. The last time Maggie tried to teach her how to make something from scratch she spent the next week cleaning batter out of the most unlikely spaces. They’d decided then that it was best if Maggie did the baking while Sherri brought her up to speed on everything happening out there in the real world.
“You cannot be serious.”
“About the cookies? Of course not. I’ll stick to the Pillsbury tubes – you know, premade and pre-sliced.” Maggie wrinkled her nose in distaste. “But about the dancing? Absolutely. You do all that Zumba and belly dancing and crap. You’ll be awesome.”
Maggie looked at her as if she were insane. “I do all that crap in the privacy of my own home for exercise,” she said, trying to remain calm. “Not in front of a bunch of horny men for profit.”
“These guys aren’t like that,” Sherri confided. “I’ve danced for them before. Complete gentlemen, I’m telling you, although the way they look, I wish they weren’t.” Sherri got that dreamy look in her eyes, the one she always got whenever she regaled Maggie with stories of the men at the Irish Pub. Maggie herself had never actually been to the Pub, but from Sherri’s graphic, detailed descriptions she felt she had a pretty clear picture of exactly what it was that drew Sherri’s repeated interest.
“No.” Maggie stood up and carried her mug to the sink, rinsing it out and placing it in the rack to the side. She would reuse it later. No point in dirtying another or wasting hot water and soap washing it now when a simple rinse would do. Maggie was very practical that way.
“Maggie.” Sherri’s tone softened a little. “Don’t you ever want to – you know – get out there and live a little?”
“I live just fine,” Maggie said defensively, wiping her hands on her apron. It was an old-fashioned, full-frontal coverage style hand-stitched from a faded pink and white gingham print that her great-grandmother had once worn in this very same kitchen more than half a century ago.
“You live alone,” Sherri pointed out. “And you rarely go anywhere anymore.”
“I get out,” she countered. Three times in the past week alone, to be exact, delivering herbal teas and wraps to some of the older folks around Pine Ridge that could no longer make the trip up to her farm; the same ones her grandma had taken care of for years before she passed.
“And I am not alone. I have George.” She glanced fondly at the aging Bassett hound sleeping peacefully next to the old-fashioned radiator, no doubt a result of a major sugar crash caused by all the cookies Sherri had slipped him under the table. “I am perfectly content.”
“Remember when we used to go out? God, we had so much fun.”
“You had fun, Sherri,” Maggie corrected with a wry smile. “You always left with the hot guy and I got left behind with the wingman.” Which wasn’t always a bad thing, she had to admit. She’d met some very interesting people that way. Men who were like her – guilted into going out with their hot-looking friends so they wouldn’t have to go out alone. In general, wingmen tended to be more down to earth and more interesting than the gods and goddesses, as Maggie called them.
She was quite fond of Sherri, but it was a true exercise in humility going out with her. Sherri was classically pretty with light blond hair and flirty blue eyes that sparkled with promises of fun. Around five-seven with at least half of that belonging to her long, shapely legs, Sherri was the female equivalent of magnetic north for men. Their dicks always pointed right to her. Of course, it didn’t hurt that she moonlighted as an exotic dancer at Angels, Pine Ridge’s local “gentleman’s club”. The woman was a walking, talking fantasy for most functioning, post-pubescent heterosexual males.
“Can I help it if I’m approachable?” Sherri asked with no trace of vanity whatsoever.
“No,” Maggie sighed. Sherri had been born beautiful, lithe, and innately friendly. How could Maggie hold that against her? It was like hating a spectacular sunset or a soft summer breeze. You could do it, but you’d feel even worse if you did.
“Please, Mags. I’m really out on a limb here.”
Now there was a visual Maggie didn’t need – Sherri dangling gracefully from a tree, with a dozen hot firemen from the community charity calendar reaching up to save her. Actually, she believed that was one of the pictures in there two years ago...
Maggie shook her head to clear the image. “Maybe Crystal will come through.”
“Mags, she broke her leg. I really don’t think that’s going to heal by tomorrow night.”
“Don’t they make walking casts?”
“Not for pole dancing, no.”
“Good point. But there’s got to be someone else
“No one that’s as pretty as you.”
Maggie turned around, expecting to see the mischievous, playful smile on her friend’s face, the one she always wore when she was blatantly blowing sunshine up someone’s ass to get what she wanted. What she saw instead was a look of total seriousness.
“And the guys are very particular.”
Maggie had to wonder exactly what it was they were particular about, which was followed almost immediately by trying to think of something she had that they might be interested in. She came up with nothing. Last she heard, most guys weren’t dreaming of Susie Homemaker introverts dancing at their bachelor parties. Maggie had no false perceptions of what she was – too short, too curvy, too boring, too plain. Especially next to someone like Sherri who literally oozed feminine sexuality.
“Yank someone else’s chain, Sher,” Maggie said, recovering. “I’m not biting.” She slipped off the apron and hung it on the hook beside the back door.
“Mags, have you looked at yourself lately?”
“Not if I can help it.” After all, why add insult to injury?
“Spencer was an idiot,” Sherri said softly from right behind Maggie, her arm going around her shoulder. “Losing him was the best thing that could have happened to you.”
Spencer Dumas was an idiot, that much was true, but he was a good-looking, wealthy, successful idiot. And Maggie had him trumped, easily surpassing him on the moron scale. She had actually believed all of his lies, had believed that someone like him could love someone like her. At least until she thought to surprise him one night while he was working late at his office and discovered his secretary taking dick-tation while bent over his imported desk.
An added bonus: she got to hear firsthand Spencer’s own account of his prudish, chubby fiancé, the one he was only marrying to get hold of her land.
Maggie had been strong. She’d left quietly after – calmly, numbly – revealing her presence, canceling the engagement, then removing herself completely from the social scene. How many of her supposed friends had known all along? How many had laughed at her behind her back or shaken their heads in silent pity at her total ignorance?
Apparently quite a lot. She hadn’t been able to face many since. Sherri was the one exception, but that was mainly because the woman was as tenacious as she was gorgeous. And she didn’t have a mean, catty bone in her body. The bitch.
“You are beautiful,” Sherri told her, reaching up to pull out the clip that held Maggie’s hair. The result was voluminous waves of ruby-red hair that cascaded halfway down her back. “God, I wish I had your hair.”
Maggie reached back and snatched the clip. She re-secured her hair immediately, turning crystalline green eyes on her friend, staring pointedly at the curtains of silken platinum that framed Sherri’s perfect features.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that men really hate blondes. A real turn-off. Must be hard on you. My heart bleeds, really.”
Sherri ignored her, raking her gaze up and down the oversized man’s flannel shirt that reached practically to Maggie’s knees. “And what are you now, like a size six?”
Maggie snorted. “Hardly.” Not that it mattered. That was the beauty of living and working out of her own home. She lived in soft, comfortable flannel and baggy jeans that hid what her grandmother used to refer to in hushed tones as a “full figure”. She could sweat to as many oldies as she wanted, but she would never have Sherri’s lithe, slim body. No, she would always carry a little more on her hips. And the only way her breasts would get smaller is if she had a reduction. The best she could hope for was to tone what lie underneath. Way underneath.
“Please, Mags. Just help me out this one time and I swear I’ll never ask you again for anything as long as I live.”
Maggie shook her head. “No way, sister. I love you, I really do, but no.”
Sherri sighed heavily, then pulled out the big guns. “Mags, thirty minutes of dancing pays around five hundred bucks, and that’s not including tips.”
“Five hundred dollars?” Maggie hated the interest the flash of a little cash could spark in her. But hey, it would pay a couple of bills. A definite plus since she hadn’t been successful in finding work outside of her sporadic contract jobs from home. Her savings were down to nothing. Most of the people she made homeopathic herbs and wraps for were barely making ends meet themselves, and Maggie didn’t have the heart to take what little they had, so that certainly wasn’t pulling in any income.
She was already living from one paycheck to the next, budgeting out every penny, stretching her meager income so thin it was almost translucent.
Sherri went in for the kill. “And you can wear a costume and a mask. No one will ever know who you are.”
Maggie bit her bottom lip. “No one?”
It was tempting. Something the old Maggie might have jumped at in a heartbeat, when she was naïve and optimistic and fun. Before she became ‘chubby’ and ‘prudish’ and ‘boring’.
“All I have to do is dance?”
“I swear it, no funny business. These guys are first-class.”
Five hundred bucks plus tips. Total anonymity. Dancing. An illicit thrill went through her at the thought of doing something so brazen, so naughty, so un-Maggie like. “Alright.”
Sherri bounced up and down and almost knocked Maggie over with her fierce embrace. “You’re not going to regret this, Mags.”
Maggie wished she could be as certain.
Jake’s Irish Pub was closed to the general public. Those allowed in were by invitation only in honor of Ian’s upcoming wedding, and consisted of family and a few close friends.
“Oh. My. God.” Sherri stared slack-jawed at Maggie, seeing her for the first time in full regalia. She was dressed the part in layers upon layers of thin veils and silk, bedecked by rings and bracelets, her unique green eyes outlined in black kohl beneath the mask, her dark ruby hair cascading freely .
“Honey, it’s a good thing Crystal’s not here, because if she saw the way you fill out her costume she’d hang up her veils for good.”
“I feel ridiculous.”
“You look amazing,” Sherri said, shaking her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe you are the same woman who spent half the morning horking cookies! How can you eat that much and have a body like that? I don’t think I like you anymore.”
Maggie rolled her eyes, but refrained from an acerbic retort when there was a soft knock on the door. Sherri opened it, allowing one of the largest men Maggie had ever seen to slip into the room with them. She swallowed audibly as her face lifted up... and up.
“Hey, Sherri, you look stunning as always. We’re ready when you are,” he said with a smile that could have powered half the state for a month. Then he seemed to notice Maggie, who had instinctively taken a step backwards toward the corner. His smile faltered for a moment.
“You’re not Crystal.”
Maggie couldn’t have spoken if she wanted to. Clearly this was one of the infamous Callaghans. Sherri hadn’t been exaggerating when she described them as forces of nature. If anything, she hadn’t done them justice. Thankfully, Sherri was not quite as stricken and managed a coherent, even amused, response.
“Crystal broke her leg. This is my friend Maggie, and she’s filling in tonight.”
The man’s eyes were hypnotic as they regarded her. Maggie had never seen that color blue before. His devastating smile returned, slowly. The wider his grin, the faster her heart beat in her chest. What the hell had she been thinking, believing she had the courage to go through with something like this?
“Nice to meet you, Maggie,” he said smoothly. “My name is Jake, and this is my place. You need anything, you let one of us know, okay?”
Maggie somehow managed a nod. It only made his grin wid
Sherri laughed. “That she is. But this is her first time, so go easy on her, ‘k?”
“Mmm. A sacrificial virgin. Been a while since we’ve had one of those.” His blue eyes glittered like finely cut sapphires. Or aquamarines. Or both.
“Play nice, Jake. I promised her you’d behave.”
He chuckled. “Sorry, Maggie, couldn’t resist.” He winked and turned back to Sherri. “We’ll be good, Sher. Taryn will totally kick my ass otherwise.”
Maggie had a hard time imagining anyone kicking his ass. Even under the blue button down and jeans – the standard uniform of the Pub staff – he looked like he might have been carved from solid marble.
“I’ll be out in just a sec, Jake,” Sherri said, handing him a CD. “Get this loaded, will you?”
“You got it.” Then he was gone, and Maggie released the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding.
“Relax, girlfriend,” Sherri laughed. “Jake’s married and a daddy. And insanely in love with his wife, by the way. Lucky bitch.”
“Are they all like that?”
“Yep, pretty much.”
Sherri laughed. “Yeah. Come on. Sit at the bar and have a drink. It’ll loosen you up. I’ll go on first.”
Minutes later, Maggie found herself in the shadows of the bar as the lights dimmed and the music began. Sherri appeared on the small raised platform, looking dazzling as always. Maggie fidgeted nervously, fighting the sudden urge to throw up, or pass out, or both.
“A little nervous?” the bartender asked, startling her enough that her rear-end left the bar stool entirely for a moment or two. He was huge, just like the other guy, but a bit leaner maybe. And gorgeous. All hard, masculine features over a clean-shaven face. Sinfully long, dark lashes that had no business on a face that stunningly male. Dark hair that captured the lights and made them dance in it. Blue eyes deeper than the ocean. Maggie could only nod, afraid that anything that came out of her mouth at this point would be utter nonsense.