“What you grinning for?” Ciara was at his office door, nose scrunched.
Declan composed the returning message, then clicked off the phone and dropped it on his desk.
“You’ll get an extra hundred in your pay this month. Euan coughed up.”
“You got that tight arse to pay? How did you do that?”
“My obvious charm.”
“Did you deny him his drink?”
“You’re still okay to stay until closing tonight? Paddy’ll be with you, so you won’t be alone to lock up.”
“Where are you going?”
Ciara’s dubious grin had Declan’s brow furrowing. “You might reconsider that.”
Declan stood, smoothing down his shirt. “Doubt that.” He did. He needed to get laid. However it came. “Does this shirt make me look—”
“I know, but sometimes I like to hide that fact.” He unbuttoned the shirt, ruffling it out from his jeans and flapped it off his arms.
“What vocation you going for?”
“Model? Actor? Front man of a boy band.”
Ciara cracked out a laugh. “Only way you’ll pass for that is if you serve the bloke your lock, stock and barrels, getting him so bollocksed he can’t see.”
“You’re good for the soul, y’know, Ciara.”
Ciara curtseyed. “You’re welcome. You still won’t go out though.”
Declan shot a confused look over his shoulder as he rummaged around in his office wardrobe. He kept spare clothes down here for those times he needed a quick change rather than having to venture up three flights of stairs. Mostly it was shirts for when he’d been drenched with beer. Or the occasional jacket for when he had the brewers in. Or a jumper for when he needed to head into the cellar at night. But, right at the back, were a few go-tos for last minute dates. He yanked a T-shirt off a hanger and checked it over. Least it didn’t spell middle-aged owner of a centuries-old pub. It was tight. Might as well be a base layer. Perhaps it was. He wriggled into it. Thank Mary he still had a decent body. He turned to Ciara and smoothed down the creases, tucking the tee into his waistband.
“Aye, you could pass for one of the fellas from Boyzone. The oldest one.”
“Grand.” Declan ruffled his curls.
“You still won’t go out though.”
Ciara smirked, then angled her head for Declan to follow her. He tutted. If it was Jacob, he’d call the Garda. Or his daughter. He’d put the fella in a home himself. Because nothing was going to prevent him getting laid tonight. He needed rid of the loitering scent of Rowan, and to work off the lingering fantasy of a certain army captain.
Ciara led Declan from his back office, through the inn’s reception and into the main bar. Irish folk played on a loop for the few customers chatting into their drinks and finishing off the special of steak and ale pie with greens. Ciara stopped, folded her arms and nodded toward one of the tables.
Declan regretted his choice of top as it restricted his lungs expanding.
In an exact recreation of the previous night, Captain Kane Taylor stared forlornly into a pint of Guinness. Declan doubted a single drop had passed his lips and it wouldn’t be anything to do with how Shane had poured it. A shadow of a man—hunched and childlike—there was too much and nothing at all going on behind sad eyes. Declan’s desire to go to him wrenched hard. Harder than his need to release his pent-up load into a stranger.
Ignoring Ciara’s triumphant “told ye so”, he went to him and slipped into the seat opposite.
Kane met his gaze, eyes dreary and empty yet filled with need. With hope. With longing. He dug deep into his jeans pocket, fished out a coin and slid it across the table.
Declan tilted his head. “Don’t usually accept British currency. I’ll make an exception for you though.” He picked up the two pound coin and tossed it into the air, catching it in his fist. “You want change, it’ll have to be in cents.”
“No need for change. I have a lot of thoughts to pay for.”
Declan’s lips curved into a benevolent smile. Ciara had been right. With thoughts of nothing but this man, Declan wasn’t going anywhere.
“Bottle of Jameson’s, Ciara,” he called over to the bar. “Two glasses.” He then wrapped his hand around Kane’s pint and dragged it toward him. “I take it you’re not going to drink this?”
“No. As much as I want to.”
“I hope, one day, that I can drink it.”
“That day not today?”
“That day isn’t today.”
Declan held up the glass in salute. “Then I’ll take one for your team.” He drank the lot, dumping the empty onto the beer mat, and wiped the froth from his lips. “Can’t waste the best poured pint outside Dublin.”