Her eyes they shone like diamonds,
you'd think she was queen of the land.
The village of Ardmore sat snug on the south coast of Ireland, in the county of Waterford, with the Celtic Sea spread out at its feet. The stone seawall curved around, following the skirt of the golden-sand beach.
It boasted in its vicinity a pretty jut of cliffs upholstered with wild grass, and a hotel that clung to them. If one had a mind to, it was a pleasant if hearty walk on a narrow path around the headland, and at the top of the first hill were the ruins of the oratory and well of Saint Declan.
The view was worth the climb, with sky and sea and village spread out below. This was holy ground, and though dead were buried there, only one grave had its stone marked.
The village itself claimed neat streets and painted cottages, some with the traditional thatched roofs, and a number of steep hills as well. Flowers grew in abundance, spilling out of window boxes, baskets, and pots, and dooryards. It made a charming picture from above or below, and the villagers were proud to have won the Tidy Town award two years running.
Atop Tower Hill was a fine example of a round tower, with its conical top still in place, and the ruins of the twelfth-century cathedral built in honor of Saint Declan. Folks would tell you, in case you wondered, that Declan arrived thirty years before good Saint Patrick.
Not that they were bragging, they were just letting you know how things stood.
Those interested in such matters would find examples of ogham carving on the stones put for safekeeping inside the roofless cathedral, and Roman arcading faded with time and wind but still worth the study.
But the village itself made no attempt at such grandeur. It was merely a pleasant place with a shop or two and a scatter of cottages built back away from lovely sand beaches.
The sign for Ardmore said FAILTE, and that was 'welcome.'
It was that very combination of ancient history and simple character and hospitality that interested Trevor Magee.
His people had come from Ardmore and Old Parish. Indeed, his grandfather had been born here, in a small house very near Ardmore Bay, had lived the first years of his life breathing that moist sea air, had perhaps held his mother's hand as she'd walked to the shops or along the surf.
His grandfather had left his village and his country, taking his wife and young son with him to America. He had never been back, and so far as Trevor knew, had never looked back either. There had been a distance and a bitter one, between the old man and the country of his birth. Ireland and Ardmore and the family Dennis Magee had left behind had rarely been spoken of.
So Trevor's image of Ardmore had a ripple of sentiment and curiosity through it, and his reasons for choosing it had a personal bent.
But he could afford personal bents.
He was a man who built, and who, as his grandfather and father before him, built cleverly and well.
His grandfather had made his living laying brick, and made his fortune speculating on properties during and after World War II, until the buying and selling of them was his business, and the building done by those he hired.
Old Magee had been no more sentimental about his laborer's beginnings than he had been about his homeland. To Trevor's recollection, the man had shown no sentiment about anything.
But Trevor had inherited the heart and hands of the builder as much as the cool, hard sense of the businessman, and he had learned to use both.
He would use them both here, and a dash of sentiment as well, to build his theater, a traditional structure for traditional music, with its entrance the already established pub known as Gallagher's.
The deal with the Gallaghers had been set, the ground broken for the project before he'd been able to hack through his schedule for the time he wanted to spend here. But he was here now, and he intended to do more than sign checks and watch.
He wanted his hands in it.
A man could work up a good sweat even in May in such a temperate climate when he spent a morning hauling concrete. That morning Trevor left the cottage he'd decided to rent for the duration of his stay wearing a denim jacket and carrying a steaming mug of coffee. Now, a handful of hours later, the jacket had been tossed aside, and a thin line of damp ran front and back down his shirt.
He'd have paid a hundred pounds for one cold beer.
The pub was only a short walk through the construction rubble. He knew from stopping in the day before that it did a brisk business midday. But a man could hardly quench his thirst with a chilly Harp when he forbade his employees to drink on the job.
He rolled his shoulders, circled his neck as he scanned the site. The concrete truck let out its continuous rumble, men shouted, relaying orders or acknowledging them. Job music, Trevor thought. He never tired of it.
That was a gift from his father. Learn from the ground up had been Dennis Junior's credo, and the third- generation Magee had done just that. For more than ten years-fifteen if he counted the summers he'd sweated on construction sites-he'd learned just what went into the business of building.
The backaches and blood and aching muscles.
At thirty-two, he spent more time in boardrooms and meetings than on a scaffold, but he'd never lost the appreciation, or the satisfaction of swinging his own hammer.
He intended to indulge himself doing just that in Ardmore, in his theater.
He watched the small woman in a faded cap and battered boots circle around, gesture as the wet concrete slid down the chute. She scrambled over sand and stone, used her shovel to rap the chute and alert the operator to stop, then waded into the muck with the other laborers to shovel and smooth.
Brenna O'Toole, Trevor thought, and was glad he'd followed his instincts there. Hiring her and her father as foremen on the project had been the right course of action. Not just for their building skills, he decided-though they were impressive-but because they knew the village and the people in it, kept the job running smoothly and the men happy and productive.
Public relations on this sort of project were just as vital as a sturdy foundation.
Yes, indeed, they were working out well. His three days in Ardmore had shown him he'd made the right choice with O'Toole and O'Toole.
When Brenna climbed out again, Trevor stepped over, extended a hand to give her a final boost.
'Thanks.' She sliced her shovel into the ground, leaned on it, and despite her filthy boots and faded cap, looked like a pixie. Her skin was pure Irish cream, and a few curls of wild red escaped the cap.
'Tim Riley says we won't have rain for another day or two, and he has a way of being right about such things more than he's wrong. I think we'll have the slab set up for you before you have to worry about weather.'
'You made considerable progress before I got here.'
'Sure, and once you gave us the high sign there was no reason to wait. We'll have you a good, solid foundation, Mr. Magee, and on schedule.'
'Aye, Trev.' She tipped back her cap, then her head so she could meet his eyes. She figured him a good foot higher than her five-two, even wearing her boots. 'The men you sent along from America, they're a fine team.'
'As I handpicked them, I agree.'
She thought his voice faintly aloof, but not unfriendly. 'And do you never pick females then?'
He smiled slowly so it seemed that humor just moseyed over his face until it reached eyes the color of turf