From Small Town Summer: Nine Contemporary Romances. It’s about redemption and second chances–my favorite kind of story!
Joe leaned an elbow on the still-shining bar and watched as Molly patrolled the saloon like a revenuer on a mission, stroking her slim hands lightly over everything she passed. She slipped off her shoes and left them in the middle of the floor and then made the rounds again, her prettily polished toes curling against the wood floor.
When she turned from the windows to face him, her teal eyes were shining. “Do you want to sell it?” she asked.
Whatever reaction Joe had expected from her, that hadn’t been it. Her voice practically hummed with excitement.
“The saloon? Sell it?”
“It shouldn’t just sit here, Joe. It should have people and music and laughing and bottles shining like gemstones behind the bar. Don’t you see? Meg deserves better than this . . . shrine. So does your wife, if she loved this place, too.”
She was right. Closing the saloon had broken all their hearts, especially his father’s, but at the time it had seemed to be the only alternative. There’d been no life in it without either Meg or Susan. Joe’s daughters-in-law had tried, but Brenna was in college full time and Emily was a pharmacist. They were also the excellent mothers of his grandchildren. The saloon had been the last straw for both of them.
But there was life in it now. Molly fairly danced as she moved about the room, and he had to tamp down the urge to take her in his arms and sweep her into a two-step.
He could envision her behind the bar, building a Guinness the way Meg had learned to do in Galway before she married Tom and they came to America to make their fortune.
Molly would drape handmade quilts over the upholstered furniture around the fireplace and urge people to “Sit! Sit! What will y’be having this fine evening?”
Of course, she wouldn’t have his mother’s brogue and she wouldn’t know everyone in town as Susan had. But she would be the life the saloon cried out for.
And maybe the life Joe cried out for.
The thought brought him out of his imaginings with a jolt. What was he thinking? Molly Linden couldn’t even make sweet tea, for God’s sake. What made him think she’d be able to construct a decent Guinness, or for that matter, pour those girly drinks all the colors of the rainbow that she probably liked herself?
“You’re a banker,” he said abruptly, “not a bartender. And I thought you wanted to be retired. Do you have any idea how much time a place like this takes?”
He watched the animation leave her face, and it gave him the uncomfortable feeling he’d just ripped Santa Claus and the freaking Easter Bunny right out from under an unsuspecting child.
“You’re right, of course.” She shrugged. “I probably couldn’t afford it anyway.”
You could if you sold that New York apartment. You could pay cash for it and still have enough left over to stock the bar and pay the staff for a while. But Joe left the words unsaid. A bar like Rahilly’s Saloon wasn’t for Molly Linden. She belonged in a place that was more sophisticated than cozy, one that sold more Perrier than draft beer.
“How about some coffee?” he asked. “I’ll buy.”
She smiled at him, but that sparkle didn’t return to her eyes. “Only if a sandwich comes with it. I’m famished.”
Joe made a big show of a put-upon sigh, more relieved than he cared to admit that she didn’t seem to be angry. “I suppose,” he grumbled. “There’s just no such thing as a cheap date anymore.”
And then those words hung between them, creating a cloud of uncertainty. Was this a date? Cheap or not, it had all the earmarks of one. They were undoubtedly aware of each other―or at least he was aware of her—but that didn’t necessarily mean her feelings were reciprocal. He should know better than to try and guess what a woman was thinking. He hadn’t perfected the art in twenty-six years with Susan, so God knows he couldn’t do it after knowing Molly—what, two weeks or so?
“I’ll bet you’re going to want French fries, too.” He forced the words past his confusion.
She shuddered, wrinkling her small nose. “All that fat? No.” She brightened, and he thought her eyes danced again even though her bare feet were still. “A salad, maybe?”
“Well, come on.” He sighed again, but he could feel a grin pushing at his cheeks. “May as well blow my whole allowance in one sitting.”
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/small-town-summer-terri-osburn/1122204814?ean=2940152224047&itm=1&usri=2940152224047