Speakeasy (True North #5)(3)

Yeah, this is gonna drive me crazy.

“Alec,” Smitty says.


The glare he gives me makes his nose-piercing flare. “For the third time, what tap am I changing out for the new lager? The IPL?”

“Um…” I sigh. “There’s a new IPL?”

Smitty’s eyebrows lift. “Chelsea brought it? Never mind. I’ll just decide by myself. I’ll rotate out something generic. Cheapskates will have to drink the good hooch.”

That’s probably going to lead to some complaints, but I don’t care right this second. I’m distracted by the couple again, because they’re actually kissing now.

“Hey—are you macking on that lesbian couple?” Smitty asks. “You know there’s porn for that.”

“Oh, shit,” I say slowly. “I just figured out who that is.” And, yeah, it’s bad news.

“A porn star?” Smitty asks.

“No, moron. Her name is Daniela. She’s in a relationship with someone I know. And they live together.” Last time I heard, anyway. I have a memory for exactly this kind of thing—names and gossip. I was destined to become a bartender.

“Uh-oh,” Smitty says.

“No kidding.” I watch for a moment longer, just to make sure I’m not imagining it. But I can see their tongues from all the way over here.

“She’s cheating on her man with a woman?” Smitty dumps a new bucket of ice into the bin. “Kinda dumb, since we live in a small town.”

“She’s cheating on a woman with another woman,” I clarify. “You know May Shipley?”

Smitty stands up, pointing at the Shipley Cider tap. “Like these Shipleys?”

“Yeah, that’s right. May is Griffin’s sister.”

“You gonna tell ’er? Why bother? It’s not like you’re a big fan of the Shipleys.”

He’s right. I should probably just leave it alone.

Another pack of drinkers descends on the bar, and I spend the next ten minutes pouring a lot of drinks. Someone asks for a snakebite, so I half fill a pint glass with Shipley Cider. The musky apple scent makes me think of high school, when I used to help the Shipleys get the last of their crop into storage at the end of every season. Ten bucks an hour. It seemed like a fortune back then.

And then August Shipley fired my father, and our lives went right to hell.

Good times.

Serving up drinks and smiles on autopilot, I consider what to do about May’s cheating girlfriend. Maybe they broke up and I’m worrying for nothing?

As Smitty said, though, it’s a small town. I probably would have heard about a breakup. My sister would have mentioned any big upheavals at the Shipley’s place.

I sneak another look into the corner, and the two women are still going strong.

God, I hate cheaters. Do I call May? Do I mention it to her brother next time I see him?

Nah, not him. Griffin would probably just think I was a gossip. We’re not close. Not since high school, when we were fierce competitors. And definitely not lately, since he broke my sister’s heart.

Funny all the things you can worry about while you’re pouring drinks.

That woman attached to Daniela’s face—I wonder who she is? And how stupid is Daniela, anyway?

“You’re staring again.” Smitty chuckles. “But that is pretty hot.”

“It’s not that,” I growl. “Not sure what to do.” This just pushes all my buttons. I hate cheaters more than I dislike the Shipleys.

Besides, May is the sweetest one of the bunch. A good girl. Quiet. Not as smug as her older brother.

“Nothing much you can do, anyway. And cheaters always get caught.”

Wiping down the bar, I think that over. He’s right, and he’s also wrong. Sometimes a person can live in willful denial for a good long time. My mom, for instance. She probably always knew my dad was sleeping around. But she put up with him even when he didn’t deserve it.

“This is gonna bug you, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I mumble.

“Gimme your phone.”

“Why? Last time you had my phone you posted a picture of your ass on my Instagram.”

“It’s a nice ass. But that’s not what I’m doing, okay? Just unlock it and give it here.”

Against my better judgement, I comply.

Smitty takes a rag and wanders slowly through the big room. Candles flicker in crevices in the brick walls. People talk and laugh while music pulses in the background. The place looks great. Opening a bar isn’t exactly curing cancer. But I’m proud of this place anyway.

When Smitty reaches the back part of the room, he wipes a table with his left hand and subtly takes a photo of Daniela and her lover with his right hand.

“That was pretty slick,” I say when he brings my phone back.

He shrugs. “Slick would be if I could’ve also got a photo of my ass without you noticing.”

I jam my phone in my pocket as a group of four guys approaches the bar. “What’ll it be, gentlemen?”

And just like that, the weekend pace kicks back into high gear. First every barstool is taken, and then every table. Smitty fills drink orders as fast as our cocktail waitress can bring them over. And I do whatever needs doing. When you own your business, that’s just how the day goes.

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