Saturday, March 26, 2016

Chapter reveal: Irish Jewel, by Julie Ann James


Title:  IRISH JEWEL
Genre: Suspense
Author:  Julie Ann James
Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

When Irish Jewel opens, bride-to-be Amy Reid is living out a fairy tale.  She’s engaged to be married to the love of her life, Michael Cambridge, an Irishman. Michael, a member of one of Dublin’s most  prominent families and heir to the Cambridge precious gem business, is everything a girl could dream of—and more.   He’s handsome, loving, charming, smart, successful, and, as icing on the wedding cake, Amy and Michael will be married in an elaborate ceremony in Dublin. This lavish, spare-no-expense event will be an exquisite dream-come-true-affair—a beautiful beginning to their lives together.

But this dream-come-true quickly turns into a nightmare:  what begins as a vague threat quick escalates into something much more sinister. On the eve of what should be the happiest day of her life, Amy is quickly swept up in an insidious web of danger, kidnapping, and murder.


When long buried truths emerge and dark secrets come to light, this fairy tale will be irretrievably fractured.  Nothing is as it seems—and the only way to win this deadly game is to get out alive. But the odds are stacked against Michael and Amy.  Will they even live to see “till death us do part”? Expect the unexpected in this twisted tale...   

Irish Jewel
Julie Ann James
Chapter One

The captain’s deep monotone voice interrupted the restless sleep of some 120 passengers to prepare them for touchdown. They were about 20 minutes outside the Dublin airport at the end of a smooth but long flight, something that Amy Reid was still getting used to since her engagement to the love of her life, an Irishman, Michael Cambridge. They had met two years earlier as seatmates on a flight out of Dublin to her hometown of Sarasota, Florida.
Since then, they had been inseparable, other than the exasperating fact they lived across the pond from one another, which put an unexpected spin on the term, “long distance relationship.” Last summer, his proposal was sweet and romantic. Following a shared meal, he offered her an after-dinner mint, and hidden inside the wrapper, a princess-cut diamond ring, a whopping three-carats! His family is in the jewelry business. How lucky can a girl be to wear on her left hand what are literally the family jewels?
It was hard to believe that their wedding would take place in ten days after months of planning, choosing the perfect dress, and brilliantly persuading her entire family to make the trip to Ireland. Now that most of the details had fallen into place, she felt as though she had conquered all. A March wedding in Ireland—inside a castle—was a dream come true for any girl.
The seatbelt sign turned off, giving passengers permission to move about the cabin. Amy rifled through her purse making certain all her belongings were in order, pulled her carry-on out from the overstuffed compartment, and took her place in the crowded aisle.
The flight attendants thanked the passengers for flying Aer Lingus and provided concise directions on how to get from the gate to the baggage claim. Amy couldn’t care less what they were talking about, as her mind was in an entirely different place. She couldn’t believe she was going to marry someone she considered to be her soulmate. As corny as that sounded, she made sure complete strangers were aware that she was about to marry a “Cambridge.”
The Cambridges were known for their generosity, as they donated to charitable organizations throughout the country. They hosted elaborate parties at their estate located just outside County Clare—all on behalf of the miracle of medical research for so many causes. This made a lasting impression on Amy and was one of the many traits she admired about Michael. The Cambridge donations made a huge difference in many deserving lives. The family’s name and pictures were plastered in the newspaper quite often, but for the greater good, which was refreshing to say the least.
Michael wasn’t able to pick her up from the airport due to a work thing, so she was prepared to hail a cab to take her to their temporary flat in the city. It felt so good to be back in Ireland, where the Celtic history overflowed in each charming town. It wasn’t unusual that one of their endearing people would offer a 30-minute dissertation of that history in response to one simple question.
To her pleasant surprise, a limo waited for her arrival outside the airport doors—Michael’s doing no doubt. The driver, in a sleek black suit and top hat, rescued her from her heavy bags and opened the door with a gracious nod and smile.
“Thank you so much—this is great. I can’t believe Michael did this for me. Wait, what am I talking about? Of course, he did this—he’s Michael. You will have to forgive me, driver. I often talk to myself, so pay no attention to me. I am just so very excited to be getting married in ten days—count them, ten days—in Ireland for that matter.” Amy held up her freshly manicured hands to give the visual of ten days as she slid into the back seat.
“So I have heard, Miss Reid. That rumor has been spreading all around town. Believe me, everyone knows of your upcoming wedding. The Cambridges might just as well be royalty.” His eyes sparkled directly at hers, and then he closed the door.
“I am going to be a bride, Michael’s bride.” She giggled and danced her feet on the floorboard of the moving limo.
Amy settled back into the plush leather seat and pulled out her overstuffed wedding planner, skimming the pages for the final “to dos” before the “I dos” actually took place. Of course, her newly launched ad agency back in Sarasota had been somewhat difficult to leave behind and was always on her mind. But she had great confidence in her staff. They should be able to hold down the fort in her absence.
Her clients were few, but the word of mouth proved to be steady and went beyond her wildest expectations. She hoped to double her clientele by the end of next year. She wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the rest of them and push her business hard, all the way to the top. Her goals, which had been in place since she was twelve, were to get married before she turned thirty, start her own business, and travel the world—not too shabby for a 28-year-old University of Florida graduate.
Now that her feet were touching solid ground, the reality set in about why she was in Ireland, and the butterflies started to work on her stomach. There was a chill in the air, the kind that went straight to the bone. It didn’t matter how many layers of clothing were applied, one never seemed to warm up. A Florida girl through and through, the frigid cold was something she might never get used to.
The scenery was breathtaking as usual, never disappointing. It was picture-perfect and resembled one of the many postcards she had collected and received from Michael in the past two years.
Suddenly she realized she didn’t recognize the part of town they were driving through. “Driver, excuse me, but I believe you missed the turn back there somewhere, but I could be wrong. Didn’t Michael give you directions to our apartment?”
“He had a change of heart as to where you will be staying for the next few days and wanted it to be a surprise. By the way, my name is Matt—not driver.”
“My apologies, Matt. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I have quite a few friends and relatives flying into the Dublin airport. Will you be picking them up too?”
“Yes, I’m Michael’s new personal driver, and I’ve been instructed on your family’s flight plans, arrivals, and departures.”
“Great, I’ll check that off my list. I thank you, kind sir.”
Amy’s eyes were to her list and not the scenery, so her confusion and wonder peaked when they arrived at a 15-foot wrought iron gate, the entrance to the most enormous castle she had ever seen.
Matt opened the limo door and escorted her up the walkway to the massive entrance. Waiting for her on the other side was a familiar face.
At six foot two, Michael Cambridge’s rugged Irish looks and wavy brown hair would stop anyone in their tracks, as they might wonder how one person could be so amazingly handsome and perfect from head to toe.
“Darling you are finally here! Welcome.” He took her hands in his, and pulling her close, kissed both of her cheeks and her soft lips.
“Michael, what are we doing here? What is going on?”
“Now, don’t worry your pretty little head about anything. God, you look gorgeous. It is so good to see you.”
“I thought you were at work.”
“Nope, I lied,” he said with a sheepish grin.
“What do you mean?” Her voice ascended an octave.
“I lied because that’s the only way I could have pulled off your surprise.”
He opened the double doors to the ballroom proudly. Her entire family stood in the center of the room, each with a glass of champagne in their hand, ready to toast the birthday girl and soon bride-to-be.
“Oh my God, what did you do? I thought they weren’t flying in until midweek.” Tearfully, Amy hugged Michael.
“They wouldn’t miss your birthday, pretty girl.”
“Wait a minute,” she stuttered. “I’m still 28 in my head.”
“Not anymore. You are officially 29, Ireland time.”
“Michael, you say the sweetest things.” As they laughed together, he handed her a glass of sparkling champagne and proposed a toast. Amy listened to his eloquent speech of adoration and flushed with embarrassment from the attention.
“To my blushing bride, Amy, Happy Birthday, my love.”
The sound of glasses clinking echoed, and the crowd called out, “here, here” and “to Amy.”
“Are you surprised, darling?” he whispered in her ear, his strong arm wrapped around her slender waist.
“Surprised? Of course! You never cease to amaze me, Michael Cambridge. This is why I love you so much.” Then she whispered, “I just wish I would have dressed more appropriately. I still have airplane on me, if you know what I mean.”
“But you look amazing to me. You could be wearing a potato sack and still look great.”
“Oh Michael, you are so funny. Who talks like that?”
“I suppose I do,” he confessed.
“I do,” she repeated. “I cannot believe we will be saying those two little words to each other in just a few short days.”
The next 30 minutes or so were spent getting reacquainted and greeting relatives from both sides of the family. Coming together for the first time, the Cambridges met the Reids. It was so odd to see, but at the same time, it felt right. The conversations were mostly small talk, both pleasure and business, but they always segued back to the happy couple.
Dinner was served sit-down style in a smaller room adjacent to the main ballroom. Irish food, something pureed no doubt. Either one loves it or hates it. Mostly, it’s tolerated.
Michael stepped out of the room to take a phone call from the concierge’s desk. While he was gone, one of the servers tucked a note next to Amy’s dinner plate, but said nothing and just refilled her water glass and walked away.
How strange, she thought. She glanced over her shoulder to see the server who had delivered the note, but she only caught a glimpse of the back of his head before he quickly made his exit.
She searched the faces at the table, but it didn’t appear that anyone was looking her way. They all seemed engaged in their own bubbly conversations.
Dabbing at the corners of her mouth with the embellished napkin, she unfolded the note and discreetly read it.
“He is not who you think he is...”

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