“As will I. Have no doubt of that, just Mac.”
I gave him my frostiest look, much-practiced on drunk, randy patrons at The Brickyard. “Is that a threat?”
He stepped forward and I stiffened, but he merely reached past me, over my shoulder. When he moved back, he was holding my credit card. “Of course not”—he glanced down at my name—“Ms. Lane. I see your Visa is drawn on SunTrust. Isn’t that a southern U.S. bank?”
“Maybe.” I snatched my card from his hand.
“What state in the South are you from?”
“Texas,” I lied.
“Indeed. What brings you to Dublin?”
“None of your business.”
“It became my business when you came into my establishment, inquiring about the shi-sadu.”
“So you do know what it is! You just admitted it.”
“I admit nothing. However, I will tell you this: You, Ms. Lane, are in way over your head. Take my advice and extricate yourself while it’s still possible.”
“It’s too late. I can’t.” His condescending high-handedness was making me mad. When I get mad, I dig my heels in right where I am.
“A pity. You won’t last a week as sophomorically as you’re bludgeoning about. Should you care to tell me what you know, I might be able to increase your odds of survival.”
“Not a chance. Not unless you tell me what you know first.”
He made an impatient sound and his eyes narrowed. “You bloody fool, you have no idea what you’re—“
“Somebody in here call a cab?” The bells on the door jangled.
“I did,” I shot over my shoulder.
Jericho Barrons actually made the faint beginnings of a lunge toward me, as if to physically restrain me. Until that moment, although aggression had charged the air and threat had been implied, there’d been nothing overt. I’d been aggravated, now I was a little afraid.
Our gazes locked and we stood a moment in that frozen tableau. I could almost see him calculating the importance—if any at all—of our sudden audience.
Then he gave me a faint sardonic smile and inclined his head as if to say, You win this time, Ms. Lane. “Don’t count on it twice,” he murmured.
Saved by the bell, I snatched up my bag of books and backed away. I didn’t take my eyes off Jericho Barrons until I was out the door.
Communal bathrooms sucked.
I got my hot soup, but my shower was icy. Upon returning to The Clarin House, I made the unhappy discovery that apparently everyone in the inn waited until early evening to shower before going out for dinner and a night on the town. Inconsiderate tourists. The water was far too cold to endure washing my hair, so I phoned the desk for a six o’clock wakeup call when I would try again. I suspected some of the guests would just be getting in then.
I changed out of street clothes into a lacy peach sleep shirt and matching panties. That was another pain about communal bathrooms—you either got fully dressed again after your shower or risked a half-naked mad dash down the hall past dozens of doors that might pop open at any moment. I’d opted for fully dressed.
I finished unpacking the last of my luggage. I’d brought a few comfort items from home. I pulled out one of Alina’s peaches-and-cream candles, two Hershey bars, my favorite pair of faded and much-loved cutoff jean shorts that Mom was always threatening to throw away, and a small framed picture of my folks, which I propped against the lamp on the dresser.
Then I rummaged through my backpack and dug out the notebook I’d bought a few weeks ago, and sat cross-legged on my bed. Alina had always kept a journal, ever since we were kids. As a bratty younger sibling, I’d ferreted out many of her hiding places—she’d gotten more inventive as the years had gone by; the last I’d found had been behind a loose baseboard in her closet—and teased her mercilessly about whatever boyfriend she’d been mooning over, complete with annoying kissy-kissy sounds.
Until recently, I’d never written in one myself. After the funeral, I’d been in desperate need of an outlet and had poured out pages of grief into the thing. More recently I’d been writing lists: what to pack, what to buy, what to learn, and where to go first. Lists had become my anchors. They got me through the days. The oblivion of sleep got me through the nights. So long as I knew exactly where I was going and what I was doing the next day, I didn’t flounder.
I was proud of myself for how well I’d blustered through my first full day in Dublin. But then, when bluster was all you had, it wasn’t so hard to paste it on over your real face. I knew what I really was: a pretty young woman barely old enough to tend bar, who’d never been more than a few states away from Georgia, who’d recently lost her sister and who was—as Jericho Barrons had said—in way over her head.