Speakeasy (True North #5)(9)

“It wasn’t the sweater that did it,” I say quickly. “Of course not. The funny thing is, though, that the wives’ tale refers to a man. I made a joke that it didn’t matter if I gave Daniela a sweater because wives’ tales don’t cover lesbians.”

Alec laughs, filling the cab with a warm, happy sound. My life is falling apart right now, but Alec is still easy to talk to. It must be a gift that bartenders have. Like priests. Sitting at his bar chatting him up sounds like a good time.

Too bad I don’t go to bars anymore.

Before I’m ready, we’re rolling up the driveway of my family’s farmhouse. That’s when I notice that the driveway is packed with vehicles. “Oh, hell.”

“Lotta company tonight?”

“It’s Thursday Dinner.” It’s a weekly family event. It’s not always at our house. But tonight? Of course it is. And earlier today I’d told my mom that Daniela and I weren’t coming.

I groan again. Loudly. Because I’m just realizing something.

“What’s the matter?”

“I’m an idiot. Daniela hasn’t been coming with me to Thursday Dinner because of her pro bono work. But there never was a Thursday pro bono meeting. She just picked that night for her hookups so she could avoid coming out to Thursday Dinner with my family.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Who wouldn’t want to eat dinner with you?” he asks softly.

“Her, obviously.” The kindness in his voice is a little hard to hear right now. And god, I want a drink. So badly. But I keep that to myself, because I’m pathetic enough already.

Alec kills the engine. “What’s the plan, here? Do you want to stash your stuff on the front porch and come back later?” He’s eyeing the farmhouse, where a dozen people are visible through the lacy curtains in the dining room.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll just go in and get it over with.” Alec has already given me enough of his evening. “I’ll just haul my stuff in through the kitchen door and chuck it into the TV room.” That way, at least, I won’t be clomping up and down the stairs while my family eats dinner.

This is going to be awful.

At least I’ll get a slice of my mother’s apple pie out of it.

Chapter Three


May and I ferry two loads of her belongings stealthily in through the kitchen door of the farmhouse.

But on our third trip, we’re busted by her grandpa as he fills his water glass in the kitchen sink. “Well, well, well!” the old man shouts. He’s either hard of hearing or likes the sound of his own voice. “Look who’s sneakin’ in like a thief in the night!”

“Thieves carry things out,” May grumbles. “This is the opposite of that.”

“Did you finally leave that harpy of a girlfriend?” Grandpa Shipley barks.

May closes her eyes like he’s causing her physical pain. “Can you say it louder, Grandpa? I’m not sure they heard you all the way to Rutland.”

So that’s the end of stealth mode.

“What’s this?” Ruth Shipley—May’s mother—appears in the room, an empty water pitcher in her hand. “You left Daniela?” Her jaw is practically on the floor.

Poor May.

“Can we talk about it later?” she asks as the doorway fills with more curious faces. “Everyone sit down, okay? Nothing to see here.”

There is a beat of awkward silence, and then Ruth remembers she’s on a mission. She carries the pitcher to the sink to fill it. “I assume you haven’t eaten. May, get two plates, honey. Alec, you’re staying for dinner.”

“Yes ma’am,” I say, because Ruth Shipley’s voice is more authoritative than the commanding officers I met during my brief stint in the military.

“Sorry,” May whispers.

I should probably get back to the Gin Mill, but at least there’s a text on my phone telling me that Connor had driven over to pick up my shift. So the bar is doing fine.

And I feel a little weird about just dropping May with her stuff and running away. Meanwhile, the food smells amazing. Ruth is famous for putting up a nice spread, and I’ve never been inside the farmhouse before. The Shipleys used to feed the kids who came to pick fruit on their farm, but they kept us outside, like the riff-raff we were.

In spite of myself, I’m curious. “Let me just close the truck’s doors.”

“Let me…” May says, but I catch her shoulder in one hand.

“I got it. It’s fine.”

Two minutes later I poke my head into the dining room, and it feels a little like walking into enemy territory. My old pal Griffin sits at the center of one side of the table, like a king surrounded by his family and his wife.

I’ve known the Shipleys my whole life. They’re like a postcard family—two boys and two girls—everyone smiling and wearing hand-knit sweaters and singing campfire songs together.

They probably do that for real.

The Rossi clan, on the other hand, is a rougher, trailer-park version of the Shipley family. There are four boys and one girl. We’re louder, and—to my lovely mother’s dismay—a little cruder. We have tattoos and punk-rock T-shirts instead of knit sweaters. We smile, too, but usually while we’re pummeling each other.

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