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The Claddagh

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🚁 🚁🚁

Nicole opened the tiny black box, looking at the ring sitting inside of it. She had spent hours searching for the perfect one. 

Wasted time.

Sighing, she closed her eyes and thought about every detail from the previous night.

When Nicole had proposed to Cleo last night, she had assumed the answer would be yes. The couple had been dating for nearly a year and had discussed the future, but Cleo’s vision of the future had been different from Nicole’s. 

Nicole just didn’t know it was that different. 

Cleo was beautiful and driven. Her dreams were to rise quickly through her law firm, always have a beautiful person on her arm at whatever event her firm was hosting, and maybe, one day, buy a condo in a trendy area. 

Nicole‘s dreams consisted more of having a partner, someone to come home to every day, share life, and maybe, one day, expand the family with a house full of children. 

She would have been happy to be the beautiful person on Cleo’s arm and even have the condo, but Cleo wasn’t interested in a partnership and definitely not a family.

Nicole groaned and rubbed her face. She longed for a family. 

Her parents were hippies and rarely interested in anything that involved Nicole. When she was 16, they left her at the local police station, and she never saw them again. 

If it weren’t for the sheriff, Randy Nedley, Nicole would have ended up homeless and even more alone than she felt at this moment. He and his daughter, Chrissy, were the only family she had, and she longed for more.

It wasn’t that the Nedleys weren’t great. They were the best.

Randy gave her a home, helped her finish school, and supported her when she joined the military. He was the best father anyone could have asked for, and she was lucky he was in her life.

Nicole just wanted someone to call her own and someone that wanted her to be theirs.

She dug her toes in the sand, listening to the waves crash against the shore, letting the sounds of the ocean calm her soul.

Nicole closed the ring box and looked at the water. She loved the beach. It was always a place that brought her some peace, and right now, she needed a little peace.

She stuffed the box in her hoodie pocket and ran her fingers through her long red hair, blowing out a long breath. 

Cleo wasn’t her first failed relationship. Nicole was starting to wonder if she was the problem. She thought she was a nice person. She was kind of funny, and she had a good heart. 

She thought she looked okay, too. 

“Obviously, something is wrong with me,” Nicole mumbled, rolling her shoulders.

Before Cleo, there had been Jolene. Another relationship that crashed and burned. Nicole had blamed that one on Jolene. The woman was a little nuts, but now Nicole had to consider if it was her, maybe she was the crazy one. 

“Nope.” Nicole shook her head. “I’m not going to take the blame for that one. Jolene was a psycho.”

Then again, she was talking to herself.

Rubbing her face, Nicole groaned. She needed to pull it together. She had to work later, and she needed to be sharp. People depended on her. 

Nicole kicked the sand, watching the birds chase after something on the beach. A slight smile curled on her lips as she watched. 

She looked at her watch and then shook out her arms. It was getting late, and even though she could use a few more minutes, it was almost time for her to leave.

She needed to run by her apartment before work, but she couldn’t go yet. Cleo was moving the few things she had out of the apartment, and Nicole wasn’t ready to see her yet.

Blowing out a long breath, Nicole rolled her shoulders again. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see Cleo; it was more that her ex didn’t want to see her. 

After Cleo said no, she also said that they weren’t on the same page and they needed to spend some time apart. Nicole knew that meant, see you later, Red. 

But Nicole agreed. 

They weren’t on the same page and weren’t ever going to get there. They both needed to move on. Nicole knew it was true, even if it hurt her heart a little.

But strangely, not as much as it should have hurt.

When Nicole felt her phone vibrate, she pulled it out of her pocket and read the text. 

Cleo: I grabbed my stuff and left your key under the mat. I’ll be in meetings all day today, but I will try to call you later. Thanks.

“Thanks?” Nicole rolled her eyes. “Thanks for what? Thanks for picking up my dry cleaning every week? Thanks for buying my groceries? Feeding my cat? Thanks for loving me for a year? What exactly are you saying thanks for Cleo?” 

Nicole shook her head. She stretched her long arms above her, then bent over to stretch out her back. She looked around the beach one more time before she turned, jogging to the parking lot. 

After she jogged up to her bike, she ran her fingers over her Ducati Scrambler, smiling. The motorcycle was another thing that Cleo had hated. It wasn’t sophisticated, but Nicole loved it. She loved speed. She threw her leg over the black bike, strapped on her helmet, and sped off toward her apartment.

Nicole didn’t even think about the box when she pulled the hoodie over her head and threw it in the corner. She didn’t think about it when she stepped into her flight suit. She didn’t even think about it when her friends and co-workers, Xavier Dolls and Eliza, asked her how she was doing. 

It wasn’t until she jumped into the Airbus H135 helicopter and heard Dolls say in her headset. 

“At least you get to keep the ring. That thing was badass.”


Nicole didn’t have time to worry about where she left the ring now. 

They had lives to save. 

Nicole lifted the helicopter off the ground, turning it toward the multiple car accident northbound on the 101.

It was time to fly.


“Wesley Earp!”

Waverly Earp was chasing after her very precocious 5-year-old son. His little feet kicked up sand as he ran along the shoreline.

“You can’t catch me!” He giggled, holding his arms out. “I’m a fighter jet.”

The little brown-haired boy had been a surprise but never not wanted. At least, he had always been wanted by Waverly.

Wesley’s biological father was another story. Champ Hardy — Waverly’s high school boyfriend, and then on and off again lover — never wanted a child and told her to take care of it. So, she did — every day.

“You’re a fast jet!” Waverly chuckled as she swept her son up into her arms. “But your mommy’s plane is faster.”

Wesley wiggled, trying to free himself from his mother’s grip. His hazel eyes crinkled into crescent moons, matching his mother’s eyes. 

Thankfully, the only thing the little boy received from his biological father was the sperm that created him. Wesley Henry Earp was the spitting image of his mother, and more than just in looks, he had her brains too. 

“Mommy, I’m a jet, and jets fly 400-500 knots which means that’s way faster than you.”

Not that Waverly minded, but Champ didn’t know what he was missing with this kid. The boy was special, and Waverly knew she was lucky to have him, even if the days were long and sometimes lonely.

Champ had legally surrendered his parental rights when Waverly asked for child support. The boy-man was far too busy chasing girls and rodeo dreams to worry about a child. Waverly wanted to regret her drunken mistake nearly six years ago, but when she looked at Wes, she just couldn’t. 

With Champ out of the picture, Waverly packed up all her things and her baby boy, and moved them from Purgatory. They left their small, judgmental hometown, moving across the country to California’s Central Coast. She had always wanted to see the beach, and now, she could see it every day. And Wes loved it. 

“Well, I’m a super jet.” Waverly twirled around, helping Wes fly through the air. “Which is why I was able to catch you.”

“Mom! There’s no super jet!” 

Wes giggled and wiggled until Waverly finally sat him back down on the ground. She ruffled his sandy brown hair, bending down so that she was eye level, and wrinkled her nose. 

“Well, what do I know? You’re the genius in the family.”

Throwing up his arms, Wes fell back onto the sand, a little dramatically. He got that from his Aunt Wynonna. “I really am the genius in the family.”

Waverly rolled her eyes.

“Go play, genius. It’s almost time to go home.”

Home was a little faculty housing complex and within walking distance from the beach. It wasn’t big, but it was close to the university where Waverly taught. 

Wes wasn’t the only genius in the family.

And while the ocean had tempted Waverly, the offer to teach was why she had uprooted her little family and moved.

Now, she had both the beach and her dream job, and she truly loved teaching in the Classics Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  

“I don’t wanna go home,” Wesley whined, making sand angels. 

Bath time was going to be fun tonight. 


The little boy rolled to his knees, jumped up, and took off. Waverly may let the little boy get away with more than she should, but she rarely had to say anything more than his name to get him to behave. Again, unlike his sperm donor. 

Waverly watched as the little boy ran, grabbing his sand bucket. He joined some of the other local children as they splashed through the shallow water. 

She was lost in her thoughts, watching the children, and didn't notice the Frisbee that had landed beside her feet.

“Hey, gorgeous!”

Waverly turned toward the voice. She ran her fingers through her long brown hair, hazel eyes focused on the handsome man walking toward her. 

He was tall, tan, and toned. Three things that always caught Waverly’s eyes. 

She bent down, picking up the frisbee and spinning it in her hands. 

Waverly watched as the man’s eyes dropped, obviously checking her out. She smirked a little. Waverly knew she was attractive. She was head cheerleader and homecoming queen, and years of yoga gave her a toned body of her own.

“Hi.” Waverly gave the man a slight smile and wave. “This yours?” She threw the Frisbee up in the air, catching it before tossing it back to the man.

She hadn’t dated a lot over the last five years. It wasn’t necessarily that she didn’t have offers. She did. She just hadn’t met anyone she wanted to introduce to her son.

Waverly bit her bottom lip. 

It didn’t hurt to flirt a little though.

She looked over at Wes to make sure he was okay and occupied. 

The guy licked his lips and smirked. “Thank you for giving me my Frisbee back.”

Waverly rolled her eyes…internally. She wasn’t sure why she even tried with men; women were generally so much more refined in their flirting. 

She learned early in her life that she appreciated both men and women. She hadn’t dated a lot of women, but then again, she hadn’t dated a lot of men either. 

Champ was her measuring board for all of her relationships. Sadly.

But it didn’t hurt to flirt a little.

Waverly giggled, tossing her hair over her shoulder. Since it was late in the day and she knew the beach would be bare, she had pulled out her tiny black bikini instead of a more reserved swimsuit.

She looked good. And she knew it.

And so did this guy.

“Hey baby, what’s your name?”

Waverly’s eyes looked over at the children before she answered. Wes would always be her priority. No matter how hot the suitor.

“Waverly.” Her lips quirked into a quick smile as she watched the man’s pretty blue eyes rake over her body again.

Usually, she wouldn’t appreciate anyone leering so much, but it had been a while, and her last date hadn’t ended well. Her ego needed a little boost, and the man in front of her was fulfilling her need.

“Waverly? That’s a weird name, but you sure are fine.”

Waverly’s smile fell a little. She always thought her name was interesting and maybe a little cool.

“Jamie!” Someone yelled from the man’s group of friends. “Throw the Frisbee, man!”

Jamie turned and threw the Frisbee to his friends before returning his focus to Waverly.

“So.” Jamie pointed toward his friends. “Want to come and hang out?”

Waverly did. She wanted to have some fun, play some Frisbee football, or whatever they were doing. She would love to have drinks and watch the sunset. 

She had made friends since she moved a little over a year ago. She had Rosita and Jeremy. They were both brilliant and taught at the university, but both had busy lives, and the single mother could rarely join them.

It was those times when she had to turn down their offers to go for drinks or dinners that she missed Purgatory the most. Her sister, Wynonna, and her aunt, Gus, were there for her for the first four years of Wes’ life. They supported her, loved her, and were always there when she needed just a minute to herself. 

“Oof.” Waverly cringed as little wet, sandy hands wrapped around her legs.

“Mommy! Come build a sandcastle with me.”

Cutting her eyes, Waverly saw Jamie make a face. Her shoulders sagged. It wasn’t like she thought she would make some kind of love connection at the beach, but it didn’t hurt for a girl to dream.

“That your kid?” Jamie’s lips turned into a scowl. 

Waverly looked down at Wes. He was a sandy mess, but he was hers, and she was proud of it. 

“Yes.” She dusted some of the sand from his little face. He smiled, eyes crinkling into half-moons, making Waverly’s heart melt. “Thanks for the offer, but I think I’d rather build sandcastles.”

Jamie chuckled, turning to run back to his friends. “Like I’d want you to come now.” 

“Asshole,” Waverly mumbled. She blinked away the tears that she felt. She would not cry over some stupid boy-man at the beach.

“Mommy, I need you.”

Closing her eyes, Waverly nodded. “Then let’s go build a mega monster sandcastle.”

Wesley giggled, and Waverly immediately felt her heart lift again. Wesley was all that mattered.

He tugged Waverly toward the other group of children, swinging their arms as they ran. 

“I want it to be huuugee!”

Waverly fell to her knees and grabbed the sand bucket. 

“The biggest sandcastle ever?” Waverly wiggled her eyebrows.

Wesley laughed and rolled around in the sand. “The biggest.” He held his arms wide open. “In the whole wide world.”

Waverly smiled, a smile that matched her little boy’s own. She may not have a boyfriend or girlfriend, or hell, even a date in the near future, but she had Wes. She had everything she needed. 

Using the bucket, Waverly dug deep into the sand, frowning when it hit something. She dumped out the sand, running her fingers through the pull until she found what she hit. 

The box was small and black, and Waverly almost tossed it to the side to throw away later, but for some reason, she decided to open it. 

“What’s that?”

Waverly turned the box over in her hand, showing it to Wes. “It looks like a ring box. Should we see if maybe we have struck gold?”

Wesley laughed, nodding his head. 

She wasn’t expecting to find anything. She assumed it was just an empty box, left behind or washed ashore after some amazing proposal. 

At least, that is what Waverly told herself. She smiled as she traced the opening of the box.

When Waverly opened it, her eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open.

The Claddagh ring was beautiful. It was white gold, the heart and hands glistened with diamonds, and of course, Waverly knew the story of the Claddagh. She pulled the ring out of the box, holding it in the sun, watching as it sparkled in the sun’s rays. 

The heart, the crown, and the hand symbols stood for love, loyalty, and friendship. Waverly knew it was a traditional Irish wedding ring, and wondered if maybe the owner was a sweet Irish man using the ring to propose to his lovely Irish woman. 

Looking around to see if she saw anyone searching for the lost item, Waverly couldn’t help but smile. It was a perfect place to use this ring to propose. After all, the Gaelic word "Cladach" means rocky beach or shore.

“We did find gold!” Wesley’s excited voice brought Waverly out of her daze.

Waverly looked around again and didn’t find anyone that seemed as if they were searching for the ring, but she knew it was expensive and needed to try to find its owner. 

“Wes, it isn’t ours.” Waverly wrinkled her nose. “So, we need to be private investigators and try to find its owner.”

Wesley frowned. “But mom, we found it.”

Waverly placed the ring back in its box, closing the lid. She would try and find the owner, but if she couldn’t, maybe she would save it so Wes could use it one day to propose to his partner.

“Well, we need to try and find who owns it, but if we can’t, then I guess we can keep it. Okay?”

While the idea of saving it for Wes touched her heart, Waverly still wanted to find the owner. She wondered what had happened. Did the owner lose the ring before they had the opportunity to propose? 

She wondered if maybe the proposer had been told no, and that thought hurt Waverly’s heart. She imagined the ring owner had spent a good amount of time selecting this beautiful ring, and to think they had their dreams crushed was painful.

Then again, the proposer could be a serial killer, and they were only using the ring to lure their intended victim. 

Waverly’s eyes widened at that thought. Maybe she should turn the ring into the police, but that thought didn’t feel right either. 

“Mommy, I’m hungry.”

Waverly shook her head. She could be a little dramatic at times. It probably just fell out of someone’s bag or pocket. 

“Yeah, baby boy, let’s go home.”

She would come tomorrow, in the daylight, and see if she could find the owner of the ring, and if not, she would turn it over to the police. 

Easy. Nothing exciting would come of it. Just return the ring and move on. No problem.