Chapter no 10 – Boy’s gonna Shine Shannon

Binding 13

On the last Friday in February, Tommen College were playing rival school Kilbeg Prep on the school grounds for the School Boys Shield.

Because it was one of the few home games of the season left, and a prestigious cup to win, all classes were invited to attend to support their team.

According to Claire, the School Boys Shield that was up for grabs today was nowhere near as important or lucrative as the league cup the team would be playing for next month in Donegal, but it was still pretty silverware and Tommen loved silverware.

It didn’t take me very long at Tommen to realize that what my father had said about the school being a glorified rugby prep school was true.

It was plain to see that everything revolved around the sport.

Personally, I could have thought of a million places I would have preferred to be than watching oversized boys from Tommen bulldoze their way through oversized boys from Kilbeg, but life had a funny way of screwing with a person.

Wrapped up in my winter coat and a woolly hat, I sat between Lizzie and Claire – who was draped in our school’s colors – grateful to have snagged a seat in the stands.

Hundreds of other students had to stand along either side of the pitch.

Not that any of them seemed to care about standing in the pouring rain.

They were too busy screaming and cheering on our school’s senior rugby team.

Ten minutes into the game, and I witnessed first-hand what all the fuss over Johnny Kavanagh was about.

I could literally feel the electricity crackling in the air when the ball was in his hands, and from the sounds of screaming, so did everyone else.

He seemed to be completely at home on the pitch, and when they got that ball in his hands?

Magic occurred.

Beautiful things happened.

He was so tall it didn’t make sense for him to be so light on his feet. He was broad and strong, thick and muscular.

But he was also light and nimble.

It was almost like he danced around the opposition with fancy leg work and agile body movements.

He had some crazy pace and the way he could sprint, it was insane. He was unbelievable to watch.

You could see the wheels of his brain in motion as he scoped out every play, pass, and attack with expert precision.

He was an intelligent player with a keen eye for intercepting play and self-discipline that seemed to rival a saint.

It didn’t seem to matter how much he was knocked around or targeted by the opposition – and he was clearly targeted – he managed to keep his cool.

The hits he took, the physical attacks on his body, and he just got back up and kept going.

I was in awe.

The way he moved was extraordinary.

I found myself entranced with the way he moved on the pitch.

No wonder everyone talks about him, I thought to myself.

He was clearly miles ahead of the boys he was playing alongside and I thought he deserved to be on a more prestigious playing field.

If he could play like this at seventeen, I could only imagine what a few years would do for his game.

“Yes, Hughie!” Claire cheered, distracting me from my thoughts when her brother, Tommen’s number 10, kicked the ball over the sideline. The

ball managed to touch off the opposition’s fingers before going out of play. “Yes!” Claire hooted, thrusting a fist in the air. “Good job, guys!”

“What’s happening now?” I asked, unsure why she was cheering when her brother had obviously kicked the ball wide. “Is this good for Tommen?” It was clear that she was as much into the game as I was, considering she’d spent the last fifty minutes rotating between explaining the rules to me

and screaming profanities at the top of her lungs.

It went clean over my head, my nerves too frazzled to take in anything more than the bare basics that I already knew from watching the Six Nations every year, but I pretended that I understood for her sake.

“This isn’t football, Shan,” she laughed. “That’s an excellent play. It’s our line out.”

“Line out?”

“Watch,” she encouraged and then began to scream her head off when Tommen’s number 2 threw the ball and Gibsie, who was wearing number 7, was thrust into the air by his teammates and caught the ball midair.

“Yes!” Claire cheered, clapping like a demented seal. “Go on, Gerard!”

It sounded funny hearing Claire call him Gerard when everyone else around us was cheering the name Gibsie.

Literally, no one called him Gerard except for Claire.

The ball came whizzing out the field then and into the hands of Johnny, and my heart leapt.

My pulse instantly sped up at the sight of him on the move.

“Oh my god!” I screeched, heart racing erratically in my chest, when four of Kilbeg’s forwards tackled Johnny to the ground, burying him beneath a mountain of muscle and dead weight. “Are they allowed to do that?”

Limbs were flying, football boots digging into the crumpled-up heap beneath the ruck. I watched the antics unfold on the pitch.

“They’re trying to murder him,” I screamed, unable to believe what I was witnessing. “Holy shit.” Clutching both girls’ arms, I squeezed tightly. “Is that illegal?”

“Don’t ask me about it,” Lizzie replied with a shrug. Disengaging her arm from my hand, she returned to flicking through her magazine. “I could think of a million better things I could be doing with my time than sitting here pretending to cheer on a sport I couldn’t care less about.”

At least she was honest.

I had thought I would feel the same, however, he was playing and I was reluctantly mesmerized.

“They are clearly targeting him,” I growled, watching as the referee blew his whistle and jogged over to the now pile-up of boys.

Of course they’re targeting him,” Claire chimed in, squeezing my hand back. “Johnny is Tommen’s best player. Take him out and the game is freed up,” she continued to say. “They’d be fools not to try.”

I wanted to scream Leave him alone! at the top of my lungs but I settled for, “That’s horrible,” instead, as an overwhelming amount of concern for him filled my chest.

“That’s rugby,” Claire agreed.

“I hate rugby,” Lizzie offered up.

“No one cares about what you hate, little miss pessimist,” Claire shot back. “Go back to your horoscopes.”

Claire and Lizzie bickered back and forth for a few minutes, before Lizzie stomped off in a huff, muttering something about needing to save her braincells, but I wasn’t really listening to either of them.

I was absorbed in the antics on the field where the team medic was fussing around Johnny, poking and prodding his face with gauze and bandages.

His black and white striped jersey with the number 13 on the back was sewn to his skin, the white shorts he had on were grass stained and specked with blood.

Both of his knees were caked in mud.

His hair was ruffled and slick from sweat.

One of his eyes was turning purple and swelling at a rapid pace, and he had a steady trail of blood flowing down his eyebrow, but it didn’t seem to faze him one bit.

Johnny’s attention wasn’t on the medic or the referee shouting commands in his ear.

He was too busy looking at me.

My heart slammed against my ribcage as he stared unabashedly and unashamedly right at me – eyes burning with heat, expression palpably intense.

Breathing hard, he lifted the hem of his jersey and used the fabric to wipe the blood from his brow, dismantling the poor woman’s attempts at patching him up, and revealing a stomach of hard abs.

The move was so primal, so decidedly male, that it hit me straight in the chest.

My face began to flame and I felt my shoulders sag as I buckled under the weight of his intense gaze.

What the hell is that?” Claire hissed excitedly, gripping my hand. “Johnny Kavanagh is staring at you, Shan. Like seriously, girl, that boy is staring at you!”

“Crap.” Unsure of what to do, but knowing that I needed to do something, I turned my face into Claire’s neck and hissed, “Hide me.”

“What?” she squeaked.

“Just tell me when he’s gone, okay?” I begged, focusing my attention on the freckle on her neck. “Pretend you’re talking to me or something.”

Less than a minute later, Claire said, “Okay, he’s gone.”

Blowing out a breath, I turned back in time to watch Johnny running back into position as the referee called for a Tommen scrum.

“What’s going on with you two?” she demanded. “I thought you said you haven’t spoken to him since that day in the office?”

“Nothing is going on with us,” I shot back, cheeks burning. “And I haven’t.”

Claire gave me a disbelieving look. “Well, that look he just gave you didn’t seem like nothing to me.”

“It was nothing,” I assured her – and myself. “Seriously, Claire, I don’t even know the guy –”

Loud booing and jeering erupted around us then, and we both turned to see Kilbeg’s number 15 had scored a try.

Their number 10 converted easily, bringing the teams level.

“Oh crap,” I muttered, feeling far more anxious than I should. “How much time is left?”

“About a minute and a half, and don’t think we’re not talking about this later,” Claire told me before turning her attention back to the game and screaming, “Come on Tommen! Woo! Kilbeg – you’re total shit!”

Kilbeg won the restart, gaining possession of the ball and gaining several yards.

They all looked completely exhausted with the exception of Speedy Gonzalez – aka Johnny Kavanagh – who seemed to have an unlimited tank of energy.

My palms began to sweat profusely when Kilbeg’s number 10 moved into position between the posts, falling into range for a drop kick at goal.

They were at nineteen phases and the score was tied up at 20 points apiece – at least that’s what Claire said.

“This is it,” Claire kept screeching. “This is it. This is it. Oh god. I can’t look.”

I held my breath, unable to cope with the anticipation.

Finally, Kilbeg’s number 9 positioned himself at the ruck – the word I had learned for the big pile up on the grass.

With the ball in his hands, he threw a pass back to their number 10. My heart stopped.

The supporters in the stands around me all went quiet.

Miss it.

Miss it.

Fuck it up.

Go wide.

All of my prayers were answered when the ball left his boot and was blocked down by Johnny, sending the ball flying upwards in the direction of their goal line.

The clock ran down, falling into the red.

“Yes!” Claire screamed, jumping to her feet, along with every other supporter on the sidelines. “Go on, Johnny! Come on Kavs!”

Unable to breathe, I watched as three Kilbeg backs hunted after him. They weren’t fast enough, though.

Like a bolt of lightning, Johnny chased down his interception, moving faster than any boy his size should be able to.

Cheers and screams and roars of encouragement erupted from the stand when Johnny kicked the ball forward, nudging it closer to the try line as he ran at top speed after it.

“Go on!” Claire roared excitedly. “Yes! You’re almost there. Keep going. Move those sexy legs!”

The ball rolled over the line.

Milliseconds later, Johnny pounced, outstretching the Kilbeg backs who were hot on his heels.

It was a blur of movements that resulted in Johnny grounding the ball into touch.

Everyone around us went insane.

Tommen’s number 10 moved into position in front of the posts and quickly kicked the conversion over, securing the two points.

And that was it.

It was over.

Tommen had won. And I was reeling.

“You have some explaining to do, missy,” Claire squealed as she bounced up and down in celebration. “Woohoo! Go Tommen, go!”

“Explaining?” I called back. “About what?”

“About why that boy down there is looking at you like he wants to eat you up,” she replied, and then pointed a blatantly obvious finger right at Johnny – who was staring right at me again.

“I don’t know,” I choked out. “I have no idea what’s happening here.”

All of his teammates were running around like lunatics, leaping and jumping around in celebration, and Johnny looked distracted.

He was quite literally swamped by people, ranging from teachers to students to local journalists and cameramen with microphones thrust in his face.

The thing that stood out was his immaculate composure. None of this was fazing him.

Not one bit.

He looked the epitome of cool, calm, and collected as he answered reporters and thanked the supporters clapping his shoulders, but every few moments, his gaze flickered back to me.

I didn’t understand it.

Worse, having his attention thrilled me.

“Why are they flocking him?” I asked in confusion, feeling bad for the other guys on the team.

Claire rolled her eyes. “Ah, because he’s Johnny Kavanagh.” “So?”

I didn’t get it.

“Come on,” she squealed, and then grabbed my hand, quite literally dragging me down through the stands and onto the pitch.

We might not have looked out of place, what with half the school out on the pitch, but I certainly felt it as I shuffled along awkwardly behind her.

“Hughie!” Claire cried out, running over to throw her arms around her big brother. “You were amazing.”

“Cheers, sis,” he replied, patting her back, as he searched through the crowds.

Obviously finding what he was looking for in the form of a tiny redhead, Hughie quickly set his sister aside and hurried off in the direction of her.

“I want that,” Claire sighed, watching her brother pick his girlfriend up and swing her around. “Obviously not with my brother,” she grimaced. “But what they have.” She sighed again. “I want that someday.”

“Claire-bear!” a familiar voice called out.

Claire spun around and I swear her entire face lit up when she noticed Gibsie jogging towards us.

“You did it!” she screamed and then flung herself at him. He seemed as excited as she did and caught her.

I watched them for several minutes, swinging each other around, completely caught up in their own bubble as they talked animatedly about different points in the game.

Either Claire was clueless, Gibsie was clueless, or they were both as blind as each other because I could feel, see, and taste the chemistry wafting off them.

Feeling awkward and out of place, I shoved my hands in my coat pockets, and quickly turned around, slipping through a mass of Tommen supporters.

I was familiar with match day.

I’d been to enough of Joey’s games. This was different though.

And I felt like an implant.

“Hey –” I heard an achingly familiar voice call out, distracting me from my thoughts. “Wait up!”

Basic human nature had me swinging around to see who was calling out and if it was directed at me.

When my eyes landed on Johnny jogging towards me, my heart thundered against my ribcage, hammering violently.

Oh my god.

What was he doing?

Why was he coming over to me? What the hell was happening?

“How’s it going?” Johnny asked, closing the space between us, voice understandably breathless from the exertion on the pitch.

“Uh, it’s, ah, it’s going good,” I stumbled over my words, completely thrown off kilter being this close to Johnny again. “Is it good for you?” I added lamely, and then immediately flamed in embarrassment. “You must feel good.” Sighing, I repressed the urge to groan and finished with a mumbled, “I mean: how’s it going for you…”

“It’s going good,” Johnny replied with a smile that deepened the two tiny dimples in his cheeks.

It was my first time seeing those dimples and my memory soaked them in like a sponge.

“That’s good,” I breathed, struggling to focus.

Unlike the last time I was up close to him – when I was seeing stars – or in the hallways when he was a blur of movement or too far away to get a good look, I had a clear, concussion-free, unobstructed view of his face.

And boy was that view a breathtaking one.

Like, for real, he was strikingly, achingly, distractingly attractive.

He had remarkable bone structure with high cheekbones and a strong jaw, swollen lips, and a messy mop of dark brown hair that was shaved stylishly at the sideswith that extra bit of length on top.

His face bore the markings of a boy that had been in many of a fight.

Over his left eye brow was a freshly clotting scar, his nose had clearly been broken a time or two, and his right cheekbone was purpling at a rapid pace.

“You remember who I am, right?” he asked, still smiling, although he looked a little nervous now, probably because I was staring at him like a creeper. “Shannon like the river.”

Oh god.

“Yeah,” I choked out, feeling every ounce of blood in my body rush to my cheeks as I tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “I remember you.” Unsure of what else to say or do, I stupidly raised and hand and waved. “Hi, Johnny.”

What was wrong with me? Seriously?

Did I just wave at him?

While I was talking to him?


The smile he was sporting grew into a full, perfectly straight, pearly- white smile. “Hi, Shannon.”

Oh crackers…

“Well, I’m good,” I said, tone a little strained. “And you’re good. So, it’s all…good.”

“That’s good,” he replied, lips twitching.

“Yeah, it’s all good,” I answered, cringing at my awkwardness. Johnny smirked down at me. “Good.”

Mortified, I looked up at his face and then quickly away again as I strived to never utter the word good again.

“I watched your match,” I blurted out instead. “Congratulations.”

Oh yeah, Shannon, because that’s much better. You should have stuck with good, idiot!

“I know,” Johnny replied with a small smile. “I saw you.”

I opened my mouth to say something, anything to save myself, but I came up empty and shrugged helplessly instead.

“Did you get my note?” Johnny asked, thankfully saving me from trying to form a coherent sentence.

“Yeah, and I wanted to thank you for the money,” I told him, voice small. “I just didn’t know if I should –”

“Don’t worry about it,” he interrupted with a smile. “I didn’t expect a thank you.”

“It’s too much, by the way,” I quickly added, tucking my hair behind my ear. “My mother got a new skirt for thirty euro.”

“I hope she got you those tights you wanted,” he countered with a knowing grin.

Oh, dear god.

That boy’s smile was something else…

“Uh, yeah.” I blushed scarlet. “Those were only a fiver.” Sliding my hands into my coat pockets, I looked down at my shoes, inhaled a shaky breath, and then faced him once again. “I can pay you back the rest of it –”

“No way,” Johnny quickly dismissed, wiping a speck of mud off his cheek. “Keep it.”

Keep it?” I stared blankly. “You don’t want sixty-five euro back?”

“I hurt you,” he replied, his intense blue eyes locked on mine. “I fucked up. You’re not paying me back anything.”

Oh, thank god because my parents would never give me the money back.

“Are you sure?” I croaked out.

Johnny nodded and said, “Yeah, ‘course,” before following it up with, “How’s the head?”

I smiled up at him. “All better.”

“You sure?” he asked, smirking now. “No residual damage that might land me in trouble? I don’t need to call in the lawyers, do I?”

“W-what?” I gaped. “No, no. I’m fine. I would never sue you –”

“I’m messing with you, Shannon,” Johnny chuckled. Shaking his head, he added, “I’m really glad you’re okay.”

“Oh, okay.” I flushed. “Thanks.”

“Johnny!” a booming male voice called out, distracting us both.

I turned my head to see a burly man sauntering towards us with an impressive looking camera strapped to his neck.

“Give us a picture for the paper, will ya, son?”

I was fairly sure I heard Johnny mutter the words fuck off under his breath but he turned to the photographer and gave him a polite nod. “No problem.”

“Good man yourself,” the photographer praised and pointed the camera at Johnny, only to halt and turn to me. “Move out the way, will ya, love?”

“Oh, right, sorry!” I squeaked and scrambled to back out of the line of the lens.

“We were talking,” Johnny bit out. He cast a scathing glare at the photographer and then walked right over to me.

“Smile,” he instructed quietly as he pulled me into his side and clamped his huge, muddy hand on my hip.

Stunned, I stared up at him. “Huh?”

“Smile,” Johnny repeated calmly, tucking me under his arm.

Frazzled, I turned back to face the photographer and did exactly what Johnny told me to do.

I beamed.

The photographer arched a brow and gave me a curious look, but quickly hurried to snap what felt like a million snaps.

The flashes coming from his camera were blinding and when they were joined by many more flashes from other photographers, I began to shake with anxiety.

What the hell was happening?

“Alright, that’s enough,” Johnny declared as he held a hand up and released my hip. “Thanks for coming out today. Appreciate the support.”

“Johnny, Johnny?” one of the women crowding us called out. “What’s your relationship?”

“Private,” Johnny shot back coolly.

“What’s your name, love?” the original photographer asked, as he pulled a pen out of his coat pocket.

Trembling, I just stood there, feeling like a dummy, feeling a million pairs of curious eyes on my face.

“Shannon Lynch,” Johnny stated with a clipped nod, and then, ignoring the half dozen photographers watching us, he turned his attention back to me. “Are you coming to the party after school?”

“What are they doing?” I asked uncertainly, unable to focus on what he just said, because I was too busy eyeing the photographer writing something on the back of his hand and several other reporters skulking nearby.

“Ignore them,” Johnny said with a shake of his head. “They’ll go away.” “They’re watching you,” I whispered. “And I think they’re watching


Releasing a frustrated growl, Johnny turned around. “I’m at school,” he stated in a sharp tone. “On school grounds. With a minor.”

Thankfully, that seemed to do the trick because they slowly dispersed. “That was so strange,” I strangled out when Johnny faced me again.

He eyed me curiously. “You don’t like that sort of thing?”

“That was horrible,” I choked out. “All that attention over a silly game.” Johnny gave me another curious look.

I stared back at him, feeling totally confused. “So, are you coming?” Johnny asked.

When I continued to stare blankly at him, he clarified.

“To the party. Hughie’s Ma is throwing on a spread for the team at their house.”


“Yes, you,” he replied, giving me a peculiar look.

My heartrate increased to a dangerous level as I stared up at this beautiful boy who was asking me to a party.

Wait, was he asking me, or inviting me? Oh god, I didn’t know.

Frowning, Johnny added, “You’re friends with his sister, Claire, aren’t you?”

“Oh.” I shook my head vigorously. “Oh, ah, no, I’m not. I mean, yes, I

am friends with Claire, but I’m not going to the party.” He arched a brow. “How come?”

“Because I’m not allowed to go anywhe–” I stopped myself short and quickly steered my words in a safer direction. “I have to help my Mam in the evenings.”

“She’s pregnant,” he stated in a thoughtful tone.

“Yep,” I replied and then, because I was a glutton for making a situation uncomfortable, I added, “She’s due in August.”

“Congratulations?” Johnny offered, shifting uncomfortably.

Nice work, Shannon, I mentally hissed. “Thanks,” I replied, squirming.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come?” he asked then. “I won’t be drinking so I can give you a spin home when you want to go –”

“Cap,” one of his teammates called out then. “Get your ass over here, lad, and lift this fucking cup.”

“I’m fucking talking here, Pierce,” Johnny snapped, turning around to glare at whoever was calling him. “Give me a bleeding minute.”

“Your friends are calling you,” I hurried to say, knowing that I needed to get away from this boy before I did something incredibly stupid like accept his invitation.

Because I wanted to.

I really, really wanted to.

And if I stayed here and kept looking at him, I knew I would.

“I better go,” I added, giving Johnny yet another dopey wave. “Have a great time.”

I didn’t wait to hear his response.

Instead, I turned on my heels and hurried away with my heart hammering around in my chest.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come for an hour?” I heard Johnny call after me.

“I’m sure,” I called back over my shoulder as I hurried away. “Bye, Johnny.”

“Yeah, uh, bye, Shannon.”

The sound of boys laughing and snickering behind me filled my ears, but I didn’t dare look back.

Instead, I did the sensible thing and removed myself from temptation with Claire’s words ringing in my ears.

“Boys with pretty eyes and big muscles mess everything up for girls.”

How right she was.



It was a little after eight when I finally got home from school that evening.

Three miles from Tommen and the bus had broken down.

For two hours, we were forced to remain on the bus while another bus from Cork City was sent out to transport us home.

It was ridiculous.

I had spent every minute of those two hours mentally kicking myself for not taking Johnny up on his offer.

What the hell was wrong with me? I liked him.

really liked him.

He asked me if I was going to a party, offered to drive me home from said party, and I turned around and practically ran away from him.

No, correct that to: I did run away from him.

In my defense, I had been completely taken aback by him.

Never once in the weeks that had passed since my accident had either of us approached the other.

He broke the imaginary rule that had been enforced between us.

He threw me by talking to me and I was still very much thrown now.

All evening my mind continued to churn the encounter round and round until I was blue in the face from thinking about it and thoroughly disgusted with myself.

I should have gone to the party.

If I had, I wouldn’t have spent two hours on a freezing cold bus in semi- arctic conditions.

At least, if had gone to the party, being late would have been worth it.

Because the look on my father’s face when I walked into the house assured me that the two hours I’d spent sitting alone on a broken-down bus

certainly wasn’t.

“Where were you?” Dad demanded, watching me like a hawk from his perch at the kitchen table when I walked through the doorway.

The familiar swell of panic built inside of me.

My father was a powerful looking man, clocking in at six feet, with dark blond hair, and an athletic build that had stuck since his days of hurling.

He too had played for Cork, but unlike my brothers, my father’s merits and achievements weren’t something I openly spoke about.

Because I wasn’t proud of the man staring back at me. I wasn’t sure if I even loved him anymore.

Or if I ever had.

Not when he terrified me worse than any of the bullies at school ever had…

“Well?” he pressed, tone tight. He was replacing the rubber grip on what looked like Ollie’s hurley and the sight of him holding the wooden hurl caused a tremor of panic to roll down my spine. “You’re late!”

I was suddenly very grateful that I had ran away from Johnny Kavanagh when he invited me to the party after school.

A shudder rolled through my body at the thought of what my father might do if I had accepted his invitation.

“The bus broke down,” I squeezed out as I gingerly set my bag down against the wall. “We had to wait for two hours for another bus to pick us up.”

My father gave me a hard stare.

I remained exactly where I was, not daring to breathe. Finally, he nodded his head.

“Fucking buses,” my father muttered, turning his attention back to his task.

The air I had been holding in released from my lungs in a loud gasp.

It’s okay, Shannon, I told myself, he’s not slurring, there’s no smell of whiskey, and no evidence of broken furniture.

But I wasn’t foolish enough to push my luck when it came to my father and moved for the bread bin with the intention of making a cheese sandwich to go.

Getting out of this kitchen and up to my bedroom without confrontation was my goal for the next minute or so while I hurriedly pieced together a lopsided sandwich and poured myself a glass of water from the tap.

“Goodnight Dad,” I whispered when I had my sandwich and water ready.

“Don’t be late again,” was all he replied, not taking his eyes off the hurley in his hands. “Do ya hear me, girl?”

“I hear you,” I croaked out and then scrambled up the staircase to the sanctitude of my bedroom.

Once inside, I flicked the lock and sank down against my door, desperately trying to get my heartrate under control.

Today was Friday. Friday was a safe day.

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