My thoughts are interrupted when Brian and Patrick are called to the stage. I clap and cheer dutifully as they scramble to their feet, but I’m drowned out by Faith’s two-finger mouth whistle that turns several heads on our direction.
“Oh, would you just look at him, Willa? He is such a ride.”
“A souped-up Cadillac,” I confirm, laughing into my beer. “Have you two set the wedding date yet?”
“Not yet.” Her eyes twinkle at me, telling me she’s in on the joke, but enjoying the idea nonetheless. “But I fancy a summer wedding. Somewhere exotic, like. You’ll come, won’t you?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.”
Patrick and Brian begin their song, this act already vastly different from their daily one on Grafton Street. Mainly, because no one is pickpocketing the audience. That I can see, anyway. Patrick plays a complicated, yet familiar, riff on the guitar, then Brian copies it even faster. It sounds like the opening of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns and Roses. Patrick challenges Brian with another riff and with a confident smirk, Brian plays it back with twice the flair. They’re dueling with guitars, and the audience is completely eating it up, choosing sides and cheering for their favorite brother. When their time is almost up, Patrick plays the notes to “Crazy in Love” with a head nod in my direction, causing Faith and I to dissolve into laughter.
They don’t win, but they do take third place, which comes with a fifty-dollar prize. They act as if they just won the Super Bowl.
Brian returns from the stage and throws an arm around Faith. “Come on. This fortune is already burning a hole in my pocket.”
“There’s beer to be bought, ladies. Join us?”
I’m actually shocked to see that evening is already beginning to fall. We’ve been sitting and watching the performances for hours and I’m kind of anxious to get Faith back to the inn. She told me she’d been given the day off, but I can easily see her neglecting to tell me she’s due back for the night shift in the pub. With the tension between her and Shane, she’d probably relish the chance to blow it off, leaving her brother high and dry. Yesterday, I probably wouldn’t have given a shit one way or the other, but I can’t help but feel I owe him one after this morning.
“Faith, I think we should head back.”
Her face falls. “Just one drink?”
I’ve only been in Dublin for two weeks, but I’ve learned enough to know that “just one drink,” roughly translates to stumbling in shit-faced at two in the morning. Hating to be the one to kill the mood, I begin to hedge, but Brian interrupts me.
“Why don’t we all head back to the Claymore Inn?” He nudges Faith’s chin. “I heard a rumor they serve the best cod and chips in town.”
Okay, I seriously need to get around to trying the damn fish, but then Brian’s suggestion registers. I can only imagine Shane’s reaction when Brian and his little sister walk in, glued together at the hip. He’ll blow a gasket. Based on Faith’s expression, I know she’s thinking along the same lines, but my relief is replaced with dread when I see the mischief cross her face. Clearly, she’s warming to the idea of pissing off her brother.
I barely stifle a groan. “I don’t—”
“Let’s go.” She avoids my eyes. “I know the owner, so I might even be able to negotiate us a good table.”
The four of us walk into the Claymore Inn and stop dead in our tracks just inside the door. I can barely see into the pub, it’s so packed full of customers. Every last one of them appears to be drunk and sunburned, shouting along with the music blaring through the speakers. My gaze shoots to Faith, but she’s completely frozen, apart from her wringing hands in front of her. A young woman bumps into me muttering a preemptive, hiccupping apology, and I notice she’s wearing the same wristband we’re sporting, that got us into the Championship. It dawns on me then that all these people must have migrated from the park a short distance away, packing the pub on what should have been a quiet night.
Just then, the crowd parts slightly and I glimpse Shane behind the bar. He’s completely on his own fulfilling orders and utterly swamped. Not only that, he’s seen us walk in and he’s livid. At the end of the bar, Kitty stands wide-eyed, her look of helplessness identical to her daughter’s. Beside me, Faith starts to mutter, “shit, shit, shit,” under her breath.
“I don’t think you’ll be getting us that table, Faith,” Brian half shouts.
Without waiting to hear if she replies, I begin to skirt my way through the crowd. I don’t know what I plan on doing once I make it past the staggering bodies. I only know someone needs to help. I’m surprised when I hear Faith pipe up from behind me, voice laced with more steel than I’ve come to expect from her.
“I’m going to jump on waiting tables, yeah?” She nudges the small of my back with her hand. “God only knows where Orla has gotten off to. Think you can manage to help Shane behind the bar till she turns up?”
I know nothing about bartending apart from what Ginger has reluctantly shared with me, so as not to encourage me to pursue the same profession. “Yeah, yeah. I got it,” I call over my shoulder as she disappears though the crowd in the direction of the kitchen. When I reach the end of the bar, I take a deep breath and walk behind it, already knowing Shane is going to reject my help. Too bad. He’s getting it. I’m actually grateful for the chance to repay him for this morning, for two reasons. One, I don’t like unpaid debts. They burrow under my skin like a splinter. Two, if anything ever happens between us, I don’t want him mistaking it for gratitude.
Kitty actually looks relieved to see me. “Oh thank God. That American is here.”
My answering smile disappears when Shane spots me.
“No.” That’s all he says.
Determined not to budge, I square my shoulders and look around. How hard can this be? I even feel a kick of excitement in my belly when someone assumes I’m an employee and shouts out an order for three pints of Guinness. Shane shakes his head at me in warning, but I ignore him. As I grab glasses off the shelf, I notice that Shane is only pouring them halfway full of the thick, black liquid and letting it settle before filling it the rest of the way. Feeling his blue eyes drilling into me, I stand next to him at the beer taps and start pouring.
“Let me guess, you’re mad?”
“What tipped you off?” He makes an impatient noise and reaches up to help me angle the glass I’m holding differently. Electrified pinpricks race down my arm when our hands brush. “I don’t need your help.”
“Beg to differ.” I set the first pint down and look up at him, sensing he wants to question me about Patrick and Brian. The curiosity is there in his eyes, but I refuse to give into the urge to explain. I keep having to remind myself I don’t owe him any explanations. Not about where I’ve been or with whom. His eyes narrow, telling me that resolve is written clearly on my face.
“We’ll see about that.” Briefly, his gaze drops to my exposed midriff, warming my skin as it lingers. “Pints are five Euro, bottles are four. I’m going to keep the register partially open so you can make change. Think you can manage that?”