Page 5 of Wild Night

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Kelli had been trying to convince Padraig to ask Emmy out for months, but his twin wasn’t budging.

Padraig had been married once to Mia, the love of his life. She had been everything to him. So even now, two years after her death, his brother was still struggling to put the pieces of his life back together.

Lately, Colm and Kelli had found one thing they actually agreed on, and that was that Padraig needed to move on with his life. He’d been hiding behind the counter of this pub for far too long.

Plus, as more time passed, it was pretty obvious Emmy had the hots for Padraig. And while he was resistant to romance, he and Emmy had formed a pretty solid friendship.

“Where is she?” Kelli pressed. “Emmy’s always here. She’s the reason I stopped by. I wanted to talk to her.”

“She has a nasty head cold. I’m running some of Aunt Riley’s chicken noodle soup over to her after my shift ends.” Padraig looked at his watch. “Which is in about ten minutes.”

“Taking her soup, huh?” Kelli asked. The woman was relentless when it came to Padraig and Emmy.

“As friends, Kell. I always bring you chicken noodle soup when you’re sick too,” Padraig pointed out.

“Yeah. Shit. You do. Come here. Lean closer.”

Padraig sighed heavily, even as he did as she asked, perfectly aware of why Kelli had made the request.

She lifted her hand and stroked the side of his face. “I just can’t get used to you without the beard.”

Colm and Padraig had sported beards since the year they’d turned nineteen, placing a bet on who could grow one the fastest. Colm had won, something he still gave Padraig shit about, but even after the contest ended, neither of them shaved.

Then, out of the blue last week, Padraig had shown up at the pub clean-shaven, simply telling everyone who asked why that he’d just needed a change.

Colm wondered if it wasn’t something more, but no amount of questioning on his part—and he was a lawyer who knew how to get the goods from a witness—had produced a different response.

“How many times are you going to touch my face?” Padraig asked, though he didn’t sound as annoyed as he pretended.

“It’s just so strange.”

“Good strange or bad strange?” Padraig asked.

Kelli considered that. “Good strange. Truth is…you look super hot like this.”

“Please,” Colm said, jumping into the conversation. “He has a baby face. You won’t catch me shaving my beard off. Don’t want to look like some wet-behind-the-ears teenage boy.”

“You’re just jealous because you couldn’t pull off the look,” Kelli said, jumping in, as always, to defend Padraig. It was another standard operating procedure. Kelli always—as in one hundred percent of the time—took Padraig’s side in any argument with Colm, no matter what.

“That makes no sense,” Colm said. “We’re twins, Kelli. Identical. Twins.”

“You know, I always forget that,” she joked. “It probably has something to do with the shape of your mouth. The way it’s always open and producing that annoying sound. Distracts me from all your other features.”

Colm grinned and doubled-down. He’d had the day from hell, and the idea of blowing off some of that steam by engaging in a battle of put-downs with Kelli sounded pretty good to him. “The only annoying sound I hear right now is—”

“Oh, look at that,” Padraig said, glancing at his phone. “My shift just ended.”

While Colm and Kelli loved to trash talk, it drove Padraig up the wall. His brother really was too freaking nice sometimes.

Colm watched as Padraig’s replacement, one of the new part-time bartenders, stepped through the hinged opening. His brother filled the new guy in on who was drinking what, and then said goodbye to them, heading back to the kitchen, no doubt to grab the soup for Emmy.

He and Kelli both took another sip of their drinks, neither of them bothering to pick up their previous conversation, and as the silence stretched, it occurred to Colm that the two of them were rarely alone together.

Kelli took another sip and, for the first time since she’d sat down, he noticed the dark circles under her eyes. She also hadn’t changed out of her work attire before coming here, and he was amused by her orange sweater that featured a glittery black cat in bunny ears. She had a wide array of ridiculous clothing like that. He knew none of it fit her tastes, and that she wore it just because her kindergartners loved it.

She was taller than most women he knew, just an inch or so shy of six feet tall. Sometimes he wondered if that was why she’d continued to hang out with Padraig throughout school. He and his twin, at six foot four, were in the minority when it came to guys taller than her.

Her dark auburn hair had gotten longer in the last year. All through high school and their twenties, she’d kept it shorter, the thick, wavy mass barely touching her shoulders. He wasn’t sure what had prompted her to grow it out, but he had to admit—begrudgingly—it was very pretty on her. He liked long hair on women, gave him something to hold on to when he was…

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