My head tilted, and I shook my head, but before I could point out his mistake, his friend jumped in.
“Yeah, why are you working in a shitbox like this place? Daddy cut you off?”
“I’m sorry I’ve never met you. I’m not…” I was so taken back by having the pub insulted that I couldn’t remember the name he’d used. I mean, Hare & Hound was, as he put it, a shitbox, but I didn’t need some entitled wankers coming in and pointing it out. “My name is Kate, actually.”
“No fucking way.” He stared at me before looking around the pub like he expected a camera crew to jump out. “You serious? Kathy?”
“Kate, and I am.” I pushed a strand of hair off my sweaty forehead with my pencil. “What else can I bring you?”
But he wasn’t listening. His hand stretched out and snapped a picture of me with his phone’s camera.
“I didn’t say you could do that,” I said quietly as my blood went cold.
“It’s cool.” He dismissed my concern like it was his right to do so. “ Just no one is going to believe that we met Kerrigan Belmond’s twin or doppelganger in...where the fuck are we?”
“West Bexby.” I resisted the urge to pluck the phone from his overprivileged fingers and smash it. Instead, I tucked my pencil behind my ear. “I’ll grab those pints.”
I circled around and left before they could take any more photos. My heart began to pound. My fingers splayed over the worn oak of the bar to steady myself. Instead of ducking behind it to the taps, I continued on to the kitchen. My vision swam along the edges. By the time I’d pushed through the swinging doors, I couldn’t breathe. Suddenly I no longer felt the oppressive heat; I was cold like I’d been plunged into an icy river. The world blurred around me, water closing in overhead and pressing down. I tottered forward, reaching for the wall, but I was too far. My fingers closed over empty air as I stopped breathing.
I wasn’t close enough to the wall to catch myself. I was falling, losing control, and for a second, I wanted the panic to win. I wanted it to overwhelm me and wash me away. My knees gave way, surrendering, just as Eliza’s arm dipped around me and hauled me upright.
“Whoa, maybe you should sit down,” she said.
I shook my head. “I’m fine.”
“Is it the heat or another panic attack?” she asked.
“The heat,” I lied. I didn’t have an explanation for the panic attacks. They came out of nowhere and rendered me nearly helpless. So far, I’d managed to keep myself from having one in front of customers, but Eliza had witnessed plenty of them.
“Let me get you some water,” she coaxed.
“No,” I said quickly as the drowning sensation roared inside me again. “I’m fine. I should get back to the assholes at table four.”
“Did they say something to you?” Eliza asked, her eyes turning to steely flint.
“No. They just thought I was some friend of theirs. They were rude about it, like they couldn’t believe she would work here.”
“Lovely,” she sneered. “I’ll take care of them. Did they order?”
I was suddenly thankful I hadn’t gotten their food order yet, because I had a feeling Eliza would have dumped it on their heads. She didn’t take well to rude men. Regulars knew to toe the line around her.
“Just a round for the house. No food. They were busy taking my picture to show Kerrigan someone or another. Some rich bitch, I’m sure, ” I muttered. My breathing had finally returned to normal, and the pressure had faded entirely. At least the attacks, while inexplicable, ended as suddenly as they started. Unfortunately, I almost always wound up with a migraine after.
“Kerrigan?” Eliza replied. “Like Kerrigan Belmond?”
I pressed a palm to my forehead as the first throb hit. “Yeah. I think that’s it. Do you know her?”
“Do I know Kerrigan Belmond?” She laughed at the question, staring at me like I was playing a prank on her.
I shook my head to let her know I had no idea why she found this amusing. “Who is she?”
“Socialite. Family is worth a fortune.”
“What do they do?” I asked. No wonder the guys had acted like idiots. I couldn’t imagine a socialite working at the Hare & Hound. I couldn’t even imagine a socialite in West Bexby.
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