Speakeasy (True North #5)(4)

I forget about Daniela for a while. I pour beers and swap out kegs and upsell my customers into good Vermont craft brews instead of the shlock they’d drink if it weren’t for my brilliance. The Ed Sheeran tunes have given way to an old Santana album and I’m loving life again.

Until I watch the bar door open, revealing May Shipley.

My first thought is: Oh for fuck’s sake. I can think of only one other time May came to the bar—on opening night. But there she is, her cheeks pink from the cool autumn night.

My second thought is: When did May Shipley get so hot? She’s wearing a soft sweater and black pants over legs that go on for days. Tall girls really turn my crank. Then again, many women do.

“Hey, Alec!” she says, waving.

I snap out of it in a hurry. “Wow, May! Haven’t seen you since the summer.”

She gives me a friendly smile, but then starts scanning the room.

“May,” I say sharply. I don’t even have a plan, except to stop her from experiencing the train wreck in the corner. Nobody deserves that.

But there’s no time. It’s almost like I can hear the brakes squealing as her eyes lock on the far corner of the room. Her frame stiffens as she spots Daniela. And then her hands ball into fists. She leans forward a little, as if the view might change if she were three inches closer.

“May,” I try one more time, as if anything I could say would make this moment less awful.

She doesn’t even hear me. Instead, she stomps toward the back, weaving between bodies as she makes her way toward that booth.

And now I’m in motion, too, ducking under the bar, following her, wondering what will happen. I always thought of May as the quiet Shipley, but now she looks like a heat-seeking missile locked onto a target.

“You cheating bitch!” she yells before she’s even reached the table.

Holy god. I’m both impressed and on my guard. Bar fights are rare at the Gin Mill, but anything could happen right now.

Daniela freezes, her eyes popping wide. But the other woman has her practically in a headlock, and is still trying to eat Daniela’s face. Daniela tries to pull back. She doesn’t get very far, though, as her hookup keeps her head caged in a possessive maneuver.

“Let me go, Trace,” Daniela says as May seethes in front of them.

“No,” the stranger grunts. “That’s the whole fuckin’ point, right? I don’t wanna let you go. You were mine first. You’ll always be mine.”

Oh, hell. This train wreck cannot be stopped.

“That is so touching,” May spits. “Except. As Daniela’s live-in girlfriend, someone should have warned me.” May reaches down and tugs Daniela’s chin, so at least the soon-to-be-ex girlfriend will look at her. “Pro bono work, huh? Every Thursday? You’re pathetic!”

“Hey! Watch your tone!” the stranger bellows. She has a voice like our ancient margarita blender—loud and grating. “Get your mitts off my girl.” Then she actually grabs May’s wrist in her paw and twists it sharply.

“Ow!” May shrieks. “You…cuntmuffin!”

My mouth drops open just as May yanks her hand back and cradles it in obvious pain. I see tears in her eyes. But she blinks them away quickly. And then…

Somehow I anticipate May’s lunge. As she starts forward, I start, too. My arms are longer than hers, and before she can grab Daniela’s lover, I fold May into a protective hug. Or a human straightjacket. Take your pick. I tug her backward before she can do something she’ll later regret.

May stiffens in my embrace, looking over her shoulder with startled eyes. As soon as she identifies her captor, she lets out a frustrated breath. “Let go,” she croaks.

“This whole thing is so shitty,” I say quietly into her ear. “But fighting can get you arrested if somebody calls the cops. And that’s bad for lawyers, right?” Not only did May go to BU for undergrad, she’s an attorney, too.

And, fine, I really don’t want anyone to summon the cops to my place of business. That’s never good.

She blinks once, then seems to relax in my arms. “Okay,” she says softly.

I let her go, and she takes a deep, angry breath. Then she turns toward her girlfriend. (Or former girlfriend?) “Don’t come home tonight,” she barks in the general direction of Daniela.

“She won’t,” the bitch in the booth says. “Daniela says you’re a shitty lay, anyway.”

Apparently my ninja skills aren’t as good as I thought, because this time May lunges before I’m ready. The slap she delivers to the stranger rings out loud and clear. And if any of my bar patrons missed the sound of it, they definitely didn’t miss the stranger’s roar of anger or string of obscenities and threats that immediately follows.

She leaps up onto the booth’s seat to try to get to May, but Daniela is blocking her way, so I have two or three precious seconds to prevent World War III.

I do this by scooping May up—all six feet of her, or near that, anyway—and bodily carrying her toward the door.

The Shipleys are a tall family. Luckily, so are the Rossis. She struggles, but only for a second. And I have her outdoors so fast that a moment later we’re standing in the cool November air, staring each other down.

“Holy crap! That was…” May lets the sentence die.

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