Speakeasy (True North #5)(10)

“Over here, dummy,” a voice calls.

I turn to spot my sister waving me down. Zara is seated on a bench, holding Nicole, my toddler niece, on her lap.

“Well, hi kids,” I say, taking the seat next to them. “Fancy meeting you here.”

And honestly it is a little weird. Zara is yet another reason I’m not close to Griffin Shipley. She was in love with him in high school, when he never looked in her direction.

But then a couple years ago he did. They had a fling that Griff eventually ended, breaking Zara’s heart all over again.

That’s all over now, though, and Zara has a new man and a baby. She’s probably the happiest of the five Rossi kids. But I still don’t understand how Zara can be so close with the Shipleys now. She and Griff’s wife are best friends and business partners.

I’m still pissed off at Griffin on Zara’s behalf. But my sister is thriving. She and Audrey have a busy coffee shop located on my property, beside the Gin Mill. They rent their building from me, but that’s the extent of my involvement.

I sit down beside her and put my linen napkin in my lap. Mom would be proud.

“Ack,” Nicole says, because my niece is my little sweetheart even if she can’t say “Alec” yet. The baby and I used to spend a lot more time together when they were living in the apartment beneath mine. But now Zara has an historic house in the center of Colebury.

Nicole tries to climb into my lap, but Zara holds onto her hindquarters. “Let Ack eat, okay? You can climb him like a jungle gym later.”

Someone passes me a basket of dinner rolls, and I take one.

“You’re the fellow who owns that new speakeasy!” Grandpa Shipley shouts.

“It’s a bar, gramps,” Griffin says. “Evening, Alec.” He reaches across the table and forks a slab of ham onto my plate. Then he puts one on his sister’s plate, too. “So…” He clears his throat and passes me a bowl of mashed potatoes. “How is it that you drove May home tonight?”

He gives me a wary look, which irritates me. Griff is sort of a grouch, generally. He gives everyone the side-eye.

May answers the question. “Alec was just in the right place at the wrong time,” she says, scooping applesauce onto her plate beside the ham. “And he volunteered to drive me home.”

“And that place was…?” Griffin waits.

“My bar,” I say between bites. And, wow. Mrs. Shipley’s ham is terrific. I think she smokes it herself. She probably enters those contests at the Tunbridge World’s Fair, where they give out blue ribbons for the best pie and the best applesauce.

When the Rossis go to the fair, we’re only there for the roller coasters and the deep-fried pickles.

There is another awkward silence. I glance around the table at all the gawking faces, and try to figure out what’s wrong. It’s a lot of faces, too There’s the younger brother—Dylan—but not his twin sister, who’s away at college. And the Abrahams, who live down the road. And Jude Nickel and his wife, Sophie.

They are all looking at May with worry in their eyes. And it dawns on me that if I’d told May a week ago about Daniela’s cheating, she might have been able to avoid a scene at the bar. And she could have chosen the right moment to tell her family, too.

May meets my gaze from across the table. See? her expression says. Told you.

This awkward silence is all my fault.

Then May breaks it. “There I was, strolling into Alec’s bar, demanding a fifth of whiskey,” she says aloud.

Her mother gasps.

“Kidding.” May puts down her fork. “This afternoon I did a real estate closing in Waterbury. So I passed the Gin Mill on my way back south. And I spotted Daniela’s car in the lot.”

“Oh,” Ruth says, looking relieved.

Griffin nods. “Not like you could miss that car. All those bumper stickers. Kinda militant.”

May rolls her eyes. “Anyway. I went into the bar just to say hello. Daniela supposedly has a Thursday meeting.” May swallows hard. “I didn’t even think it was weird to see her car there because I thought maybe they get a drink afterward, and she didn’t say anything because she was being kind—since grabbing a drink isn’t something I do.”

The story stops there for a second while May takes a deep breath. There is silence from everyone, even my baby niece.

“But…then I spotted Daniela in a booth. With her ex-girlfriend. And they were, well, wrapped around each other.” She looks down at her plate.

“Oh, hell,” Griffin says. “I’m going to kill her.”

“Honey,” Ruth says quietly. “Are you sure you interpreted that correctly?”

“She absolutely did,” I put in.

Pity rises in the room like a mist, and I can feel May’s embarrassment from all the way across the table.

“Did you confront her?” Griffin asks.

“You could say that.” May looks up, her eyes finding mine, her cheeks going pink.

“Oh-oh!” Zara says. “Were their fireworks?”

“Nah,” I say at the same time May says, “Unfortunately.”

Cue another curious silence.

“Well, fine,” I admit. “May yelled. But who wouldn’t?”

“I may have used some very colorful language,” May grumbles.

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