"Peter. Are you sure about this?" Assumpta asked breathlessly.
"Uh huh." Peter murmured into her neck. His lips began to trace the line from her ear to her collar bone making her shiver with pleasure. One hand delicately traced patterns on the base of her spine.
Assumptas' eyes closed as she pulled him closer. If she didn't say something soon then she would never be able to.
"Peter." She said reluctantly pulling away.
Placing his hands on her shoulders, he gazed earnestly into her eyes. "I love you Assumpta, and you love me. But, if you want to wait then I will understand."
Assumpta couldn't help the grin that spread across her face. "You think I'm worried you won't respect me in the morning?"
"Aren't you?" Peter asked.
She placed a hand gently on his cheek. "I'm hardly the holy mother Peter. I'm more concerned that you will regret it, that you will think you have done something… wrong."
"Weeeell." He said sitting on the bed. "Technically I suppose it is sinful. You're right, it's best that the church decides something like this. I mean, it's not as if we really know each other at all, is it?"
Assumpta caught the look of mischief. Pushing him backwards on the bed she sat across him. "Don't use your reverse psychology on…"
She giggled as he easily turned her over so that now he was above her.
"I know what I am doing." He said.
Gently he nibbled her ear. Assumptas' arms snaked around his back pulling him closer to her. His mouth found hers, insistently parting her lips in a passionate kiss. In an instant Assumpta knew she was lost.
Assumpta nuzzled closer into Peters shoulder. He lay on his back with his arm protectively around her, instinctively stroking her hair.
Raising her head Assumpta looked into his face.
"What?" He said without opening his eyes.
"Who said there had to be a what?" She said playfully.
Peter opened his eyes in a knowing look.
"I didn't know whether… you know, you'd know what to… someone who didn't…" She stopped.
"Did you think I came straight out of puberty with a collar on?"
Peter laughed. "If you're about to give a critique, I would suggest now would not be the greatest time."
Resting her cheek on his chest Assumpta smiled. "I was just going to say it's another example of the church denying us the really good stuff."
"I'll take that as a compliment." He said as he kissed the top of her head.
In the sleepy street a group of boys had gathered facing the pub. Scarves over their faces, they began to shout. Leaping out of bed, Peter put on his jeans and looked out of the window.
"It's that Donnelly lad and his friends." He said angrily. "I think it's time I sorted this out."
Pulling a jumper over his head Peter started towards the door. Assumpta was already nearly dressed.
They were halfway down the stairs when the barrage of missiles began. Rocks and bottles began to smash through the windows in the front of the pub.
"What are they doing?" Peter shouted.
"It's what I'm going to be doing when I get my hands on them!" Assumpta said, pushing past him towards the bar.
The boys had obviously decided to up the pace. Just as Assumpta reached the landing a lighted bottle filled with petrol exploded in the bar. Staggering backwards, the landlady flinched at the sudden heat.
"We have to get out." She yelled to Peter.
"Fire extinguisher?" he replied.
Seeing what he was thinking, Assumpta shook her head. She pushed him back towards the fire escape.
"Jennie." She coughed through the smoke.
"You get out. I'll go." He said pushing Assumpta towards the door.
Peter burst into Jennies' room only to find it empty. Pulling his jumper up to cover his nose and mouth, he checked the other rooms. Satisfied that no-one was in the building, he followed Assumpta down the fire escape.
Outside, the residents of Ballyk had assembled to fight the fire. A chain of buckets stretched from the river to the pub as villagers' ferried water into the flames. Peter immediately grabbed a bucket and was soon standing at the head of the chain throwing water into the bar. In the distance there was a sound of sirens.
People stood around aimlessly as the fire brigade finished dousing the flames. Peter stood with his arms around a shocked Assumpta as she watched her home smoulder.
"Is everyone all right?" Niahm asked.
"Look what they've done!" Assumpta said trying to fight back the tears. "How could they!"
"Oh Peter, Assumpta!" Jenniesaid as she got out of the taxi. "What happened?"
Peter felt Assumpta lung towards the English woman, he kept a tight grip.
"This is your fault!" She screamed. "You went to the papers, you caused all of this. You nearly got us killed!"
"It's not my fault that people are crazy here." Jennie replied. "I didn't mean for all of this."
She looked imploringly at Peter. "You must know I didn't mean any of this."
Peter was already staring past her as Ambrose approached. He was half dragging, half pushing the ringleader.
"Niahm, look after Assumpta." Peter said as he strode towards the boy.
"What did you think you were doing!" he shouted.
"Now Peter, calm down." Ambrose began.
"Calm down! I thought the Irish were a friendly people. Certainly that I had made friends here. But then I see this." Peter gestured towards the pub. "What have we ever done to you!"
The Donnelly boy looked up terrified. "It was a mistake… we didn't mean to." He said as his eyes filled with tears.
"You didn't mean to throw a bomb into a building where people were sleeping!"
"It wasn't me. I just told them to throw a few bricks, you know?" The boy said.
"I think things got out of hand, but young Mr Donnelly is going to become quite co-operative, aren't you? I'll round the rest of them up in the morning." Ambrose said. It was obvious that he had more to say, but wasn't quite sure how to say it.
"Ambrose?" Peter asked.
"The thing is Peter. The boy reckons someone paid him to do it." Ambrose said quietly.
Under the ferocious gaze of the ex priest the boy looked around in panic.
"Her… that's the one.. She told us to chuck a few brick, throw a bit of graffiti up, you know, just cause a bit of trouble, nothing serious."
All eyes followed to where the Donnelly boy was indicating, all eyes fell on Jenny.
"Well its pretty serious now isn't it?" Ambrose said leading the boy forward.
"Is this the woman?" Ambrose asked. The boy nodded his head miserably. "You're certain now?" The boy nodded his head again.
"I think you had better be coming with me Jennie." Ambrose said taking her arm.
"You're not going to believe him are you?" She laughed nervously. "It was nothing to do with me, I wasn't even here."
"Jennie! You did this?" Peter said incredulously. "You were so jealous that you would do… this!"
"Peter…" She said, the tears welling up in her eyes. "I…" But she couldn't go on.
Peter was expert at that certain expression which left the recipient in no doubt that it would be a sin should they not start telling the truth, he'd had years of practice.
"I just wanted to frighten her a bit." Jennie burst out. "I thought she would throw you out, or you would leave, go back home, run away. You always run away from trouble. It's your fault, why didn't you run away!"
"You thought I would run to you."
"She isn't right for you Peter, can't you see that? You have to understand I did it for your own good. They weren't supposed to start the fire. I never meant for that to happen."
Peter just shook his head as Ambrose began to lead her away.
With Assumpta snuggled in his arms Peter stared at Fitzgeralds in disbelief.
"I'm sorry Assumpta." He said.
"It's not your fault. You weren't to know that this was going to happen." She replied. "And look at it this way, the insurance will rebuild the place… and God knows it needed some work doing on it. Things will work out, trust me… I'm a landlady."
Peter rubbed a stray sooty mark from her cheek.
Suddenly it was as if a thought had struck him.
"Wait!" He shouted. Everyone turned towards Peter.
"I have something I want to say and I want everyone to hear it." The crowd paused as he caught his breath.
"Ever since the moment I arrived in this village there has been one constant in my life. The one person I could turn to at any hour of the day or night to help me or talk or just understand what it was like for someone so far from home. We were friends, that was it, friends. But, it soon became clear that what we had was stronger than friendship, it was a deep enduring love that no matter how much we fought against it, it would not be denied."
"Ah Peter I'm blushing." Brendan said smiling.
"Very funny." He said with a nod to Brendan and Siobhan "I have made many wonderful friends here. But that constant, that one amazing woman is Assumpta Fitzgerald."
Peter took Assumptas hand as she stood as opened mouthed as the rest of them.
Taking her other hand, he stood to face her. "She is the most bad tempered, argumentative, stubborn, sweetest, kindest, most precious person in the world."
He looked to the crowd. "And you would want me to deny a love like that? I can't do it, that would truly be the worst sin of all. I can't live without her; I could never, ever let her go… she is my life."
He gazed into Assumptas' eyes. "I'm sorry all this has happened. All I can tell you is that I love you."
"I love you too." Assumpta said.
Still holding her hands Peter sank to one knee. "Assumpta Fitzgerald. You already know that I have no money, no prospects, that I have a tendency to god bothering and for making dramatic gestures that embarrass you. Nevertheless, I am asking, would you please put me and everyone else out of their misery by agreeing to be my wife?"
Assumpta blinked around at the crowd. She looked down at the soot marked face of the man she loved and was completely unable to speak.
It seemed as though a whole village held its breath.
Eventually she managed to nod as tears welled up in her eyes.
"Yes?" Peter said as she nodded again.
"It's a miracle." Peter said getting to his feet. Assumpta is speechless… and she said yes!"
Lifting her in his arms, Peter spun her around as the crowd cheered.
"And they all lived happily ever after?" Assumpta said smiling.
"Everyone deserves a happy ending." Peter replied kissing the woman that was soon to be his wife.