Rule Number One – Excerpt

“You really are a Renaissance woman, aren’t you, Katy Gilligan?”

“That’s me, Jack,” Katy replied, trying to ignore the little flicker of heat low in her belly. “Stage a house. Refurbish an historic building. And then serve up the beer. What can I get you to drink?”

“I’d love a Guinness.” As she turned toward the bar, he added, “But only if I can watch you pull it.” The look in his eyes said plainly that he was interested in more than just filling a glass, but as he followed her to the bar, he said innocently enough, “I’ve heard that pulling a Guinness is an art. Is that true?”

Katy’s heart pounded in her chest, but she walked calmly to the bar, too aware of Jack following a few feet behind her. Just be cool, Katy, she reminded herself in spite of the deluge of heat his presence created.

Jack watched her move in front of him, fighting the urge to simply grab her and pull that lovely behind up against him. He could feel every muscle tighten, some more than others, as he imagined putting his arms around her. Letting his hands wander over her warm, flat belly, maybe tug that T-shirt out of her jeans and allow his fingers to explore her soft skin—

“Jack! Watch out!” Katy’s voice brought him up short.

Damn! He’d almost run into the bar. Very smooth, Walsh, smash your face into the brass pole, that’ll impress her. After all, you’ve already damn near dumped a beer in Jeff’s lap. What a putz! He forced himself to look composed and smiled at her. “Okay, so what’s this mysterious process?” he asked as he stepped behind the bar with her.

“Aye, well, ’tis an art, pullin’ a pint o’ Guinness.” Katy’s brogue was a perfect replica of Doyle’s. Jack was immediately enchanted. “It takes years o’ practice to perfect it. I’ve been workin’ at it since I was a wee lass.” She shook her auburn curls off her forehead and grinned at him.

Oh, my God, she’s flirting with me! The ever-cool Katy Gilligan was actually smiling and batting her lashes at him. Jack’s composure slipped another notch or two. Katy pulled a glass from the rack under the bar, smiling at him over her shoulder. He could feel heat rising.

“Okay, step one, start with a cool, clean, dry glass—not a warm one fresh from the dishwasher, mind ye.” She twisted slightly, holding the wide-mouth glass up for him to examine. The movement brought her full breasts into contact with his arm. But she didn’t move away from him. What’s this? So Rule Number One doesn’t apply if we’re on her turf?

“Step two, hold the glass at a forty-five-degree angle.” She demonstrated as she put the glass under the tap and continued in the broad Irish brogue that Jack was quickly falling in love with.

How would it be to hear that sweet brogue whispering wicked things in my ear? His imagination got to work picturing Kate naked and soft, murmuring Gaelic endearments as she squirmed under him in a big four-poster bed.

“Are ye payin’ attention, man?” Katy’s brogue interrupted his fantasy.

He smiled into her dark-chocolate eyes. “Aye,” he imitated softly.

She swallowed hard. “Step three, bring the handle slowly towards ye ’til the glass is aboot three-quarters full.” She pulled on the handle, watching the brew fill the glass. “Let the beer flow smoothly down the side o’ the glass and don’t be getting’ the spout in it.” She slowly created a foamy head, then set it down on the drip tray below the tap. “Now, step four, ye let it set fer ninety seconds.”

Jack moved in closer so his body was touching hers. He put his hand on the counter behind her as he leaned around to watch the beer settle. “So why are we letting it sit for ninety seconds?” he asked, his tone deliberately much more intimate than the question.

“Be–because,” she stuttered, losing her brogue completely. She looked past him and took a deep breath. “’Tis how the gas settles out,” she said finally but her brogue was a little shaky. “Ye get a better head on it and a richer taste.”

“Ahhh, okay.” Jack grinned. He was getting to her. The realization made his blood heat up even more. This woman makes me crazy hungry. “I’ve always wondered why bartenders did that with Guinness.”

He moved even closer. Now he was pressed against her hip. Katy trembled but stepped away neatly, reaching for the glass of brew. “Step five,” she began, but he stopped her with his hand on hers.

“No, not yet,” he said, bringing her hand down between them. “It hasn’t been ninety seconds.” He didn’t let go of her hand. Instead he curled his fingers around hers and let his thumb gently massage the delicate flesh of her wrist.

Katy allowed the touch, turning her body to his slightly, but only for the briefest of seconds before she pulled her hand from his and turned back to her task. “That’s just an estimate.” She picked up the glass. “Step five, fill the glass to the rim, but this time push the tap back—that allows a slow steady pour.” She filled the glass with the dark brew. “And that’s how ye get the creamy head.” She let the glass overfill slightly, then grabbed a coaster and set it on the bar. She looked up at Jack with a smile. “There ye go, Sir, step six, enjoy.”

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