© Nancy Fraser, 2015
“The boss is finishing up with some family business,” the bartender told him.
“Thanks, Eddie. I’m in no hurry.” He tossed back another mouthful of the hot, amber liquid and turned on the wooden stool to survey the room. Besides Eddie, the middle-aged bartender, three other ‘associates’ of O’Malley’s camped out in different corners of the half-empty bar. Obviously, O’Malley’s wealth was not dependent on his drinking clientele.
The door to the back office opened and a young woman stepped over the threshold. She looked vaguely familiar. As discreetly as he could manage, given the lack of a crowd, he studied her face. She smiled at him and then walked slowly in his direction. The gentle sway of her slim hips drew his attention like a magnet.
“Reece Michaels?” Her voice, a husky mix of warm honey and expensive whiskey, literally melted over his name. “Is it really you?”
She laughed softly and tossed her head, her auburn curls swishing from side to side, dusting her silk-clad shoulders. When she met his gaze, her amber eyes widened. “Abby. Abby Mackenzie. You know my sister Lily and, as an unwelcome result, my dad.”
The breath he’d held came out on a whoosh. “My, my, haven’t you grown up? And quite nicely, I might add.”
“And you look like crap.”
Laughter bubbled up in his chest, but he tamped it down. “Thanks, I think.”
She made a show of waving her hand in a circle in front of his face. “What’s with the scraggly beard and God-awful slicked-back hair? If I remember correctly, and I’m sure I do, you used to be good-looking, in a clean-cut sort of way.”
“And you used to have freckles and braces. We all change.”
He braced himself for another verbal attack on his appearance. Yet, she stopped short when the door to O’Malley’s office opened and both Jason and his younger brother, Billy, stepped back into the bar.
Billy was exactly as Reece remembered him. Shorter and slighter of build than his older brother, he looked as if a good gust of wind would knock him down. His hair, blond rather than the O’Malley red, framed an unsmiling, pensive face.
With a rough nudge, Jason shoved Billy until he stood beside the bar where Reece and Abby were waiting.
“This is Reece Michaels. He’s the new guy Pops was telling you about,” Jason said, nodding in Reece’s direction. “Reece, you remember my baby brother, Billy, don’t you? Pops wants you to be his new bodyguard.”
Billy O’Malley’s look of anger at being called a ‘baby’ was probably no more comical than the look of surprise on his own face. Bodyguard to a spoiled rich kid was not what he’d had in mind when he’d asked O’Malley for a job.