Irishman Blackie O’Brien led a sinful and self-destructive life of women, alcohol and drugs. He was the best, winningest, champion steeplechase jockey in the history of the sport until a near-fatal racing accident ended his career.
But this was no “accident”- his ruthless ex-agent, Micket Reegan orchestrated the whole thing. It seems that the luck o’ the Irish has deserted Blackie once and for all.
And Blackie is no ordinary Irishman. This lusty young man is the direct descendent of Brian Boru, the most influential High king of Ireland. If Ireland still had a king, Blackie would be it.
Now, Blackie is a man without a career and without a kingdom.
Warrior Spirit chronicles Blackie’s journey from the green valleys of Ireland to the privileged horse country of Middleburg, Virginia. As Blackie begins to despair over his future, in enters beautiful, young Meg, who brings her horses to Blackie’s family farm where he’s been recuperating from the accident.
Their sexual chemistry is immediate.
But Blackie’s family has other plans for him. They believe he’s driven by the spirit of an ancient Irish warrior and demand he find a place in Ireland’s political leadership.
From fighting off alcoholic temptations, thwarting an attempted rape of Meg, and stopping thugs trying to take his life, Blackie leaps over one hurdle after another. Will Blackie ultimately find the future he’s meant to have with the love of a good woman? Does Blackie get a second chance to turn his life around?
e x c e r p t
Today is spring-like for March at Cheltenham racecourse in England. It’s Gold Cup Day, the culmination of Festival Week at the track. Blackie stands outside the Jockey’s Room, tight-lipped and rolling his eyes, listening to Keary, his brother-in-law and his cousin, Sean, lecture him on his responsibilities.
Blackie likes to ride the race in his head while changing into silks and they’re screwing with his pre-race ritual. They’re pushing it. Blackie’s seesawing on the edge of belligerence, held back by the knowledge that his sister, Jill is in the stands, keen to see him race.
Red faced, Keary says, “After you ride this race, you need to get your arse home and take some interest in your future.”
“My future’s waiting for me at the finish line today.”
“Maybe someday you might accept who you are,” Keary yelled, throwing his arms up in frustration.
“I know exactly who I am. I’m the guy sleeping off a drunk in bed with a hooker.”
“Don’t say things like that, man. That’s ridiculous! You’re better than that.” Sean piped up.
“Oh, right, Sean. You were on the road with me. How many times did you find me hung-over or coming down from a high, laid up with some bimbo?”
“Okay, but I’ve found you at the roulette wheel in Monte Carlo with a gorgeous woman on your arm, as well.” Sean retorted.
“It amounts to the same thing no matter what my bloodlines are. That’s who I am, Keary. I know it and you need to believe it. I am not king material. You know how much I despise the idea.”
“But you have the blood of a thousand Irish warriors and kings in your veins,” Keary exclaimed.
“They must have been a damn sorry lot then.” Blackie sighed, tired of this same old argument.
“I don’t care what you say; you have it in you to be a great leader.” Keary said.
“Bullshit! You’re deluding yourselves, all of you. So lay off. I’ve got to get ready.” Blackie entered the building, slamming the door behind him.
“I’m sick of his crap about this,” Keary huffed. “Come on, Sean. Let’s find Jill and watch the race.”
* * *
Mickey Reegan, Blackie’s unscrupulous ex-agent was also at the track. Blackie fired him
several months ago after finding out Mickey used him to make some more dirty money. Mickey was good at that.
The grandstand was packed. Mickey could smell the greed of the crowd; their all-consuming hope was almost palpable. He knew from experience how excited they were but he was grim and nervous. There was no room in his heart for joy today, only revenge. He clutched his tote ticket with a sweaty hand. He had placed a huge wager but not on the favorite.
All his pals were giving him the ‘bum’s rush’ since Blackie sacked him because they all held Blackie in such high esteem.
Okay, so he has connections in high places, sure. All the stupid blokes think he’s their prince. What bullshit!
Mickey chuckled over his neat little scheme to fleece those well-heeled broads.
The kid was a popular guest on those weekends in the Hamptons. He got his jollies, didn’t he, the bastard. I made a nice spot of cash for meself just making sure he showed up. So what? His royal bloodlines didn’t keep his ass out of the gutter with the rest of the snobs.
The start of the three-mile, two and a half furlong, Gold Cup steeplechase was imminent. The horses and riders lined up, ready to go. Mickey pushed through the crowd at the rail, knocking a little kid to the ground, so he could have a good view of the finish.
“They’re off!” yelled the announcer. A deafening roar went up from the grandstand. The horses thundered past the crowd and onto the course. They were a blur of motion as they raced, bunched in a cluster at first. They braced themselves to jump the first hurdle and they were over. Mickey always loved racing. The beauty of the race transfixed him; the jockeys’ silks, a kaleidoscope of colors, the horses, every muscle straining to be in front, their flanks shining with sweat, their nostrils flaring to suck in as much air as possible.
The sound of it excited him; the pounding of the horses hooves on the turf, like freight trains hurtling to their stations, the horses’ labored breathing and the jockeys screaming curses at each other and their mounts.
The race was a test, both beautiful and violent; a test of the riders’ bravery and the spirit of these beautiful creatures, who were born to run, to win until their hearts burst.
Mickey hated watching now, now that he was out of a job, now that one of the worlds’ most successful jockeys had sacked him, now that he was hoping to exact retribution.
Halfway through the race, as Mickey watched through binoculars, a lone horse pulled in front. Its jockey rode with the abandon of a madman. At each hurdle, his horse rose gallantly, as though lifted higher by the sheer will of the rider. The horse pulled ahead by a larger gap, leaving the rest trailing behind. The horse and rider sailed, victorious, over the last fence as Mickey held his breath, waiting.
Then, in a split second, tragedy struck! The horse fell and spilled the young rider in the path of the oncoming horde.
* * *
The next morning, Mickey ripped open the paper eagerly as he hunched over coffee in his hotel room and found what he was looking for. The headline read:
Champion International Jockey, Blackie O’Brien, in Near Fatal Accident at Cheltenham.
Mickey smiled then. A smug, cold smile.ONE
Two years later near Middleburg, Virginia, USA
As Meg Conners got closer to her destination, she saw more and more horse farms. She was hauling her two beloved horses, in a rented van, to their new home on a farm outside of Middleburg, Virginia.
With a letter of recommendation from her former trainer and stable manager, she finally got two stalls at the world famous steeplechase stable, Killarney Farms.
As she drove, she daydreamed of taking her riding to a higher level, if not professional, maybe Olympic.
God, it would be so awesome if I could get there. It’s going to be hard work but with the right help, I can do it.
She smiled at the thought of actually achieving her goal.
Meg spotted the large, wooden sign for Killarney Farms and slowed down to turn into the long driveway. She stopped the van and sat for a few minutes to calm her queasy stomach where the waffles she had for breakfast felt like a lead weight. Her palms were sweaty just thinking about meeting people whose abilities far out-shown her limited expertise.
Looking at the farm took her breath away. It stretched out for miles on either side of the driveway. It was spectacular. Well maintained with horses grazing in small paddocks. The sight of the many barns, track and numerous cottages on the property piqued her curiosity. The main house sat on a slight hill surrounded by ancient oaks. The stone house was huge. Every inch of the neatly manicured farm reeked of money.
Meg drove farther down the drive and stopped near the first barn she came to and cut the engine. She opened the front door of the van so the horses could get more air and take in their new surroundings. There wasn’t anyone around so she entered the barn and walked down the long, spotless center aisle breathing in the clean, fragrant smell of fresh hay and the scent of horses. She’d never been in such a beautiful stable. The stalls were large and solid, open windows streamed in warm sunlight. Several curious, well-groomed heads stared at her over the doors.
A group of men stood around the door at the far end, intently watching a horse and rider work on the track. No one noticed her, so she cleared her throat. All of them turned around and stared at her. Sweat trickled down between her breasts.
“Excuse me, I’m Meg Conners and I talked to Sean O’Brien about bringing my horses in today. Could one of you come and help me unload them and get their stalls ready?” Meg asked, bravely.
One of the men said “Sure, Miss.”
She let out the breath she held and walked back out to the van.
* * *
Blackie was stunned when he saw her. Tiny and slim, she was delicately gorgeous with a sweet face. Mesmerized by the seductive sway of her hips as she turned and walked away, a bolt of desire shot through his loins like electricity.
A man could get lost in those big green eyes. I’d like to run my fingers through that long, shiny brown hair. I bet it feels like silk and…whoa, where the hell did that come from?
Blackie knew only too well where it came from. He heaved a big sigh.
His young protégé, Casey, made a move to follow her.
I’ll be damned, Blackie thought, and grabbed Casey’s collar with an iron grip that stopped the kid in his tracks. Blackie loosened his hold when he realized Casey was choking.
“I’ve got this,” he growled as he strode after her.
“Bollocks! What the divil’s got him?” Casey exclaimed as the other men smiled.
* * *
Meg stood by the trailer unlocking the tailgate when she was aware of a man walking toward her. The first thing she noticed was the way he moved, smooth like a cat, confident as a young lion. He wore scuffed boots, tight jeans, so faded they were almost white, revealing long, muscular legs and a baggy, old Cornell sweatshirt. His overall silhouette was trim. Broad shoulders and boyishly slim hips.
She tore her eyes away from the jeans, moved up to his face and couldn’t stop staring. He had to be the most incredible-looking man she’d ever seen. He was gorgeous with a rugged, slightly dangerous appearance from the stubble shadowing his jaw. He had coal black hair in need of a cut; he was tan, from being outdoors a lot and definitely looked about her age.
He was dark which made his eyes even more startling. They were the most unusual, intense shade of sky blue. His gaze focused on her eyes, flickering only once to the van. She felt uneasy and a bit threatened until he got closer and smiled. Her mouth dropped open.
The killer smile and amazingly white teeth made him look even better, if that were possible. Meg had to mentally pinch herself so she’d close her mouth and stop staring like an idiot. She wondered, fleetingly, if she had drool on her chin. He was beautiful.
“Well good day to you then, miss, I’m Blackie,” he said in a soft baritone with an Irish lilt to his voice.
“I’ll be glad to help you with your horses. Can they stay in the van for a few minutes while I bed down their boxes?”
“Hello,” she stammered, “that will be fine.”
“Okay, then, I’ll be right back.” He turned and as he jogged back into the barn, she
noticed he looked just as good going away. There was something odd about his gait though, a limp maybe?
In about fifteen minutes he came back, unloaded the horses and put them in their respective stalls. She noticed that he talked quietly to the horses as he led them, her mare, nuzzling his arm gently. He showed her where to put her equipment in the tack room.
“Tell me about your horses. Are you after fox hunting, then?” He stood near her with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.
“The mare, Cloudy Day, is my baby, I’ve had her for five years and she’s a great hunter and pleasure horse. She’s very sweet tempered and gentle. She’s a Cobb, Thoroughbred mix. The gelding is new to me, I’ve only had him six months and he’s temperamental. He’s a Swedish warm-blood and I hoped to try eventing with him but I think he’s a little too much horse for me. I’m not very experienced at it, so I’m thinking I might just try dressage with him. His name is Sandman.”
Blackie just listened while he looked at the horses over the stall doors.
“They’re both beautiful horses, but I’d have to see them in action and maybe try the gelding myself before I could give you any advice. The mare needs some conditioning. Then you might be able to do more with her.”
Meg wondered about his ability to advise her.
Do the grooms here ride the boarders’ horses? I guess they usually ride the racehorses. He might be helpful.
He talked to her with his hands still stuffed in his pockets. She loved his accent and was having trouble concentrating on what he was saying, though because he was so good looking.
“Listen, I have some other work to do, so will you be back tomorrow?”
“Yes, I planned on it. I wanted to check out the facilities and work them in a ring or wherever, if that’s okay?”
“All the facilities are at your disposal.”
“Sure and you’re welcome. I’ll meet you here in the morning, give you a tour and then we’ll take a look at your horses.”
He flashed another lethal smile and walked away.
Blackie walked away from Meg as quickly as he could without seeming rude. He felt a
nervous knot in his gut.
Man, she’s hot! What the hell! Why am I nervous? I’ve been with a ton of beautiful women before. She loves horse so she’s going to be around here for a while and seems like a nice girl. It would be a big mistake for an asshole like me to hook up with her. Bet I could get her in the sack in a couple days and… NO! Wait, I don’t want that sort of relationship anymore. I could use a good shagging though but that would be the end of it. Mmm, that tight little butt of hers…oh, God help me, I’m in big trouble here.
Meg couldn’t take her eyes off him.
Get a grip! Don’t get this excited over a stable hand you just met. Good Lord, what am I thinking? I want to focus on training the horses and my riding without any distractions, especially from a man.
Meg had sworn off men since her relationship with Jim Mechlan in college had gone sour. She’d had a crush on him and thought he loved her until the romance ended with her first and only, disastrous sexual experience in the backseat of his car.
She got in the van and backed it up in the driveway to leave, almost hitting a new, silver Porsche®.
Yikes! That was close. She wondered who owned it.
* * *
The next morning Meg got to the stable about seven-thirty and parked her trusty old Honda next to the Porsche. She got her grooming gear from the tack room and walked to her stalls. She looked in, was surprised to find both horses were in immaculate stalls and beautifully groomed, even their manes and tails were trimmed and shaped perfectly for braiding. She assumed Blackie had done the grooming but didn’t expect him to do all that. It seemed a little extreme even considering the high fees.
Is this guy being pushy? I’m not getting involved no matter how hot he is.
“Come on, Cloudy girl; let’s see what this place has to offer.” She tacked the mare up and led her outside. She walked her over to the ring, entered and mounted up. The ring was a dream. It was so much more professional than at any other stable where she’d boarded. It was huge, beautifully leveled and maintained with lots of expensively made, creative jumps. Meg smiled at the happy little tingle in her belly.