Flawless by Heather Graham



“I’M OKAY. REALLY. But I have to tell you what I did. Well, he deserved it, of course,” Julie Benton said over the phone.

“What did you do?” Kieran Finnegan asked. So far, she’d only been half listening; Julie’s tale of woe had been going on for quite a while now.

Kieran wiped the bar, one eye on her task, the other on the patrons in the pub.

Thankfully, at the moment she could easily work and listen, despite the fact that the object of Julie’s venom—her almost ex, Gary Benton—was one of the few other people at Finnegan’s on Broadway, the family downtown pub, one of the oldest in the city.

Julie giggled. “He deserved it,” she repeated.

Kieran didn’t doubt that. She just wished she couldn’t see Gary as she was talking to Julie.

She never minded cleaning Finnegan’s since it was practically her family home. It was a beautiful old place with finely carved wood, a range of tables and booths, and this classic bar with its array of beer taps and collection of Irish whiskeys. Photographs of the pub through the years hung behind the bar. Beyond was a comfortable dining room, equally rich in wood decor and handsome carving.

They weren’t particularly busy at this off-hour of the day, between lunch and happy hour.

Bobby O’Leary was at one end of the bar; although he was an alcoholic long in recovery, Finnegan’s was the center of his social life. He was still one of their favorite customers.

She’d given Bobby his standard soda with lime, and he was reading the Times.

Two groups of business executives on extended lunch hours remained. Three were at one table, and four—including Gary—were at another. Finnegan’s wasn’t even officially open. They closed between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., according to the sign on the front door, but their clientele consisted mainly of friends and regulars who knew they could come in and receive service with a smile. Both tables had paid their bills and were lingering over coffee. Kieran had served them all their final refills—managing not to spill any scalding coffee on Gary—before she’d started cleaning.

And before Julie had called. She refrained from mentioning to Julie that Gary was at the pub; frankly, she was stunned he’d come in at all. He wasn’t wanted here. But he was with Jimmy McManus—a longtime customer and entrepreneur who’d made a fortune in everything from magic mops to designer dog food and Wall Street trading. Jimmy was a great guy with a headful of white hair and a quick smile, taut and fit despite his fondness for a good Irish stout. They were joined by two men who seemed to be friends of Jimmy’s. Kieran hadn’t allowed herself to run over, grab Gary by the lapels and throw him out on the street. But until the coffee refill, she hadn’t gone near the table. Mary Kathleen, a recent recruit from the old country and the love of Kieran’s brother Declan’s life, had been working the floor. She’d waited on the table, but she’d left at three. Which meant Kieran had no choice except to take over.

The other two at Jimmy’s table were men Kieran had seen in the pub before but didn’t really know. One was dark and one was pale. They were friendly, polite and dressed in handsome business suits, like many of the pub’s clientele, who walked down from the Wall Street banks and firms where they worked.

They all looked richer than Gary Benton, that was for sure. Maybe he was trying to learn how to join their ranks.

Making a point of not looking toward the table, Kieran finished the last of her cleaning and the setup for happy hour while listening to Julie. Now that part wasn’t easy, and not only because Julie and Gary were in the middle of the sad dissolution of their marriage.

Gary had wanted the divorce. Kieran knew things sometimes just fell apart. It was always difficult and distressing, but in this case, Gary’s treatment of Julie had seemed deliberately cruel.

Julie needed her friends, and Kieran felt she had to be there for her.

Don’t look over at Gary. Just listen to Julie, she told herself. Yes, listen to Julie and be a good friend.

And clean up the pub without pouring something over Gary’s head. She might not care if Gary ever came back, but she didn’t want to drive Jimmy and the others away. Finnegan’s wasn’t her full-time job, but it was her family’s business and important to them all, herself and her three brothers.

Finnegan’s was a true Irish-American pub. Her grandfather had bought it from a cousin when he’d come to the United States after the Second World War. It had actually been owned and operated by a Finnegan since shortly after the Civil War. Not only did they have a wonderful bar selection, with excellent beers on tap and high-end call brands, they also offered good pub-style food. People came to eat and drink, but they also came to socialize, to meet up with friends. Sometimes, during off-hours like this, that meant waiting around until the current Finnegan in charge of the place—her oldest brother, Declan, these days—or another family member or server came by.

Although it wasn’t her real job anymore, she was always happy to help out at the pub. She had a career as a criminal psychologist now. But she hadn’t been working with Doctors Fuller and Miro long enough to conduct an extended phone therapy session with Julie, even if she considered this crisis in her friend’s life as something that could lead to a serious mental health issue. Luckily, she had the day off—Dr. Miro was at a conference, and Dr. Fuller had taken a vacation day and ordered the staff—Kieran and the handsome young receptionist and assistant, Jake Johnston—to do the same thing.

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