A Guy Walks Into My Bar by Lauren Blakely

1





Dean





I blame Maeve.

She’s made me addicted to this game.

It’s four o’clock on a Friday. I walked into work fifteen minutes ago, and I’m already in the mood to play.

We haven’t even opened yet, but I’m in a winning kind of mood.

Victory is in my grasp.

Lately, my opponent has been weakening.

I’ve seen it in her eyes.

I’ve sensed it in her flirty attitude.

Tonight, it’s time to go for broke—to pull out all the stops and get my damn prize.

What can I say? I’m a junkie, and I’ve got an excellent don’t-sleep-with-the-customers streak going. We both do.

Time to goad her a bit.

“Have you seen the crowds out there? All those American tourists here for the British Summer Time music festival,” I tell Maeve as we clean and stack glasses, preparing for another busy night at The Magpie. “I bet we’ll have a full bar tonight.”

“Hmm. I hadn’t noticed,” she says, in a way that tells me she certainly has.

“Teeming with lots of strapping, single men. Your favorite type. I’m thinking you’re finally about to cave.”

“You always say that,” Maeve argues, shooting me a you’re so wrong stare with her big brown eyes. “And you’re never right.”

“That’s not true,” I say in protest, grabbing a new glass. “Besides, I know you’ve come very close. The other night you seemed to fancy that table of businessmen in all those expensive suits. The night before, you were definitely flirting with that bad boy who kept ordering tequila shots.”

An impish grin lights her face as she checks that all of the bottles are facing out. “He was highly shaggable. Plus, he was from New York. I do love an American accent.” She takes a beat and arches a brow. “And yet I resisted.”

“And so very many Americans will likely be streaming in tonight,” I say, gesturing to the door that we’ll open soon. “It’s going to be soooo hard for you. If only you weren’t this stubborn.”

“Stubborn or smart? I choose the latter,” she says, all saucy.

“It’s a shame, your stubborn streak,” I continue, sticking to my strategy of reminding her what she’s losing out on. “Think of how many shaggables you’ve let just walk on out the door. Not to mention kissables. All because of a silly game we play.” I shake my head like I’m mourning all the one-night stands she’s let pass her by. Over the top, yes, but losing out on a chance with a fantastic guy is just cause for crying into your beer.

But a game is a game.

A bet is a bet.

And I won’t cave.

Maeve sets down a pair of martini glasses on the shelf behind her. “What about you, Mr. Checks Out All the Hotties and Pretends Not To? I’ve seen the guys who have caught your eye. It’s only a matter of time before you spot one of them and—poof—you’re in mad love, the game’s up, and I collect my big winnings.”

“And that is where you’re wrong,” I say, standing my ground. “Because I don’t believe in all that rubbish.”

“You don’t believe in love? Get out.”

I shrug, moving from organizing the glassware to wiping the bar down. “Oh, I believe in love. But I definitely don’t have the time or interest in it.”

Love is messy. It gets in the way of logic, facts, and hard work.

“Everyone has an inherent interest in love,” Maeve says, heading to the tables to straighten up the coasters. “And someday it’ll knock you on your arse. And I’m going to laugh so hard when it smacks you right in the face.”

“Which one is it, Maeve? Am I going to be knocked on my arse or smacked in the face?”

Setting down the napkin holder, she parks a hand on her hip and shoots me a steely stare. “In your case, both. Especially since you’ve been so focused on business, business, business since we bought this place.”

“As I should be. Because . . . loans. Also, because who has time for distractions when we have an empire to build? First stop, The Magpie. Next, world domination in the bar biz.”

“But on the path to world domination, you might go home with a hottie, and then you’ll be footing the bill for my big-ticket item,” she says, a hopeful glint in her eye.

“When I win—and I will win—I’ll give you a week to clear out a space for the pool table you’re going to have to get me,” I say as I spray down the bar. “Just to soften the blow.”