The second Blythe’s feet landed on solid ground she reached her arms high in the sky and released an enormous stretch. For the last several hours her and Mackenzie had been on a ferry that led them from England to Dublin. As difficult as it was to believe she had never traveled to Ireland even though the two countries were right next to each other. She would be lying if she said she didn’t get a little excited when Mackenzie told her that’s where they would be going for the weekend. Even for being there less than 10 minutes she admired the green lushness of the foreign country.
Shortly after they docked he ushered her into a vehicle and off they drove. They arrived some time later at a quaint little cottage that sat amidst beautiful rolling hills of green fields. From the view they had at the cottage Blythe could spot a vineyard that had a winery directly in the middle. She made a mental note to ask Mackenzie about that later.
“This is beautiful. Is this another one of your business ventures?” Blythe’s smirk was accompanied by a slight brow raise as she let Mackenzie lead her into the well kept cottage with his hand on the small of her back. In his hand he held both of their duffles they had packed for the weekend.
“I don’t own it, per say. It’s property of one of my business partners, however, so I have direct access whenever I am in the country.” He watched as her eyes scanned the well decorated living room and kitchen. The cottage was light and airy with large windows that complimented the white and grey color scheme well.
She nodded in acknowledgement to his answer as she walked around the cottage. In the back of her mind she heard him set their duffles on the couch before trekking slowly behind her. The hallway that she had found led a short distance. A small half bathroom was situated on the right and a bedroom across the hall. At the end was the master bedroom. A gasp parted her lips as she noticed that one entire side of the wall was covered in floor to ceiling windows that gave her a view of the beautiful hillside. The sunset from this room had to be absolutely incredible.
“Incredible, isn’t it?” Mackenzie whispered from behind her. Placing both hands on her shoulders he gave her a gentle squeeze. His thumbs rubbed gentle circles on the back of her neck while she enjoyed the view.
“For my first time in Ireland, I can’t say I’m disappointed.” She smiled, relaxing into his touch. She should be concerned at how much this man comforted her with his presence after just a few short months, but for now she would just enjoy the moment.
“Let’s get refreshed and we’ll go have dinner at the vineyard.” Mackenzie leaned forward and placed a chilling kiss on the side of her neck. He lingered there for a moment before pulling back and returning to the living room to retrieve their bags.
Shortly after the both of them had changed out of their traveling clothes they had made their way over to the winery. It was a peaceful walk over there with the two of them hand in hand. The smile Blythe had on her lips never faltered once as she soaked in the beauty of the country. The sun was beginning to set, changing the colors of the sky in an array of reds, oranges, and pinks.
Mackenzie didn’t even greet the hostess at the door, instead walking straight past her and through the corridors of the winery. Eventually he had led them through a door that led them outside. There was a small table placed on a cobblestone patio with two chairs that overlooked the rolling hills of the orchards. The view took Blythe’s breath away, but the view of her was the only thing that had Mackenzie captivated.
She sat down in one of the chairs that he pulled out for her. “So,” she began, placing her fabric napkin over her lap, “What kind of business do you do in Ireland?”
He began to pour an expensive looking bottle of merlot that had been brought out to them into each of their wine glasses. “I had defended a man a couple years back during a pretty big case. After that, I invested in his winery,” pausing, he waved his hand around them in emphasis, “and since then business has taken off.” Her eyes watched his careful movements while he brought his glass to his lips and took a small sip after swirling around the aroma. Picking up her glass she began to do the same. The wine had a strong deep flavor with sweet notes that reminded her of bourbon barrels and cherries. “But we didn’t come here to talk about business, did we?” His lips pulled up in a gentle grin.
“No, I suppose we didn’t.” The smile on his face mirrored the similar one on her lips. “Okay, so tell me about yourself then.” The line sounded cliché, but she wasn’t sure what else to ask. Mackenzie always led the conversation and it felt almost odd letting her take the reigns.
He paused for a moment while he finished chewing the small chunk of cheese he had delicately placed in his mouth before washing it down with another sip. “What would you like to know?” His eyes searched hers carefully but his face remained completely relaxed. The air around them was so peaceful it reflected on Mackenzie and Blythe saved the image in her mind.
“Tell me about your family.” By now the two of them were completely at ease, leaning back and taking in the comfortable atmosphere. Though the wine was delicious, Blythe could tell it was much stronger than any wine she had ever tasted at him due to the slight fuzzy feeling she began to feel behind her eyes.
Mackenzie never seemed to say anything without consideration. The calm demeanor he always carried made Blythe wonder if he had ever snapped a day in his life. “There’s not a whole lot to tell. I grew up in a small family, much like yours. One brother, younger than me, and my parents. My father was the one who started the firm and naturally I was the one who took over when he retired. My brother owns a sister company to the firm out in Wales, so he isn’t around much. None of us were every very close.” He shrugged, taking another sip from his now half empty glass. The glass that was sitting before her was suddenly being refilled. A blush crept over her cheeks when she realized how quickly she had drank the first glass.
The fact that his family wasn’t necessarily familial to him explained a lot of his behavior. “And your mother?”
His body visibly tensed but he quickly composed himself. “Not in the picture anymore.” Immediately feeling guilty, Blythe nodded.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” She whispered quietly, not exactly knowing what to say. Needing something to do with her hands other than chug another glass of alcohol, she reached forward and spread a little bit of cheese on a cracker that was provided in a basket in front of them and handed it forward to him.
He accepted the offering with a small smile before popping the morsel into his mouth. While he chewed, the two sat in silence. It had been a concern of her’s that this dinner might be slightly awkward with the idea of it being just the two of them weighing on her mind, however, she wasn’t quite sure that she had ever felt so content a day in her life before this moment.
“Your turn. Did you have any siblings growing up?” The glass he had brought to his lips was finished quickly before he refilled it just like hers.
She pursed her lips. Just how much of her life should she tell him? A lot of her memories she had repressed but she couldn’t hide them forever. With a deep breath she decided that if she were to tell anyone about her spotted past Mackenzie was the safest. “I had a sister when I was younger.” The end of her sentence trailed off quietly that gave Mackenzie the hint there was more to the story. He brought his hand and lightly rested it upon hers, allowing a soft squeeze.
His eyes pounded into hers like he could see through her tough shield. She sucked in a deep breath before she continued. “She died when she was 3. I was only 5 at the time so I don’t remember much, but from what I can remember she had ventured too far one day when we were out playing in the countryside. The two of us were playing hide and seek but after so long of not being able to find her I asked my mother for her help. They had found her face down in the creek that runs along the property line.” Her eyes remained on the skyline while she painfully relived her past.
His heart ached for her as he watched the emotions play across her features. Losing someone wasn’t something that Mackenzie was foreign to. The air around them hung heavy on their silence, but the two of them gazed upon the view set before them. There was something relieving about how easily conversation flowed between them. It allowed both to get off heavy memories without fear.
Two more glasses of wine down, something caught Mackenzie’s attention from the corner of his eye. He glimpsed over at Blythe and noticed she had such a serene expression on her face while she watched the sun set. Standing up, he leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “I’ll be back in a few moments. I’d like to pay my respects to the owner.” He whispered to her.
Once she nodded, he excused himself and strolled into the winery. He made his way to the back and walked along several rows of barrels before coming upon the man he desperately needed to meet with. While his main priority this weekend was to spend time with Blythe and appreciate her for the woman he was he needed to initially come out here to meet up with Ian Murphy.
“Ian.” Mackenzie said gruffly, reaching out to slap his hand into a strong handshake with the man.
Ian Murphy stood slightly taller than Mackenzie with a thicker build. His muscles rippled beneath his white dress shirt and black waist coat. On each of his fingers there were rings of all shapes and sizes. Mackenzie had seen the marks those rings left when someone got on Ian’s bad side. He had a sandy brown beard that doubled the size of Mackenzie’s own and had hair that was cropped short on the sides but left considerably longer on the top. Tattoo’s crept up the inside of Ian’s collars, proudly displaying the symbols of his group.
“Good to see you, brother.” Ian replied with a hearty shake of Mackenzie’s hand. His grip was tight, but it didn’t intimidate Mackenzie like it would anyone else. Ian knew that he owed much to Mackenzie after he had convinced the judge years back that Ian had nothing to do with the string of murders in Birmingham. All of the evidence was against him, after all it was him and his men that had taken out an entire gang in the downtown area, but somehow Mackenzie worked his magic and Ian was left to be a freeman. “I got the letters. I’m happy to help.”
“Good. I don’t have much time, but I’ve brought you some information. His name is John Thornton.” Mackenzie pulled a few pieces of paper that he had folded up inside his waistcoat and handed them to Ian. “No damage to him. His address is listed on the second page.”
Ian said no more while he mulled over the paper work. Nodding, he put the papers in his own waistcoat. “Consider it done. You have my back?”
“Everything is already in place. Get in. Get out. There will be nothing to trace back to you.” Without another word, Mackenzie shook Ian’s hand once more, the squeeze signifying his appreciation of Ian. Then Ian watched as he exited the room, shaking his head back and forth. Mackenzie Thomas was one man he wouldn’t dare cross and was lucky to have on his side. He knew what he had been asked to do was taking a big risk, but if Mackenzie said he was covered Ian wouldn’t have a worry in the world.