She shook her head. Whether in answer to the question or because whatever was on her mind weighed too heavily to express, he had no idea. Turning her to him, he watched as her long lashes swept upward, her eyes pummeling him with a one-two gut punch.
And going off the pulse racing at the base of her throat, she was just as affected by him, which was flattering as hell but right now he was more concerned about the shadows clouding her eyes. “You’re worried about something,” he said.
She bit her lower lip.
“Let me guess. You forgot to put the plug in your boat and it might sink before your next shift.”
As he’d intended, her mouth curved. “I never forget the plug.”
“Okay . . . so you’re worried you’ve maimed me for life and I’ll have to give up my lucrative bartending career.”
Her smile faded. “You joke,” she said, “but I could have maimed you if I’d thrown higher.”
“Or lower,” he said and shuddered at the thought.
She closed her eyes and turned away again. “I’m really so very sorry, Finn.”
“Pru, look at me.”
She slowly turned to face him. There were secrets in her eyes that had nothing to do with the dart thing, and a hollowness as well, one that moved him because he recognized it. He’d seen it in the reflection of his own mirror. Moving in close, he reached for her hand, loosely entangling their fingers. He told himself it was so that he could catch her again if she went down but he knew the truth. He just wanted to touch her.
“I’m sure you have to get back out there—” she started.
“In a minute.” He tugged her in a little so that they were toe to toe now. And thanks to her kickass boots, they were also nearly mouth to mouth. “What’s going on, Pru?” he asked, holding her gaze.
She opened her mouth but then hesitated. And when she spoke, he knew she’d changed whatever she’d been about to say. “Looks like your life has changed a lot,” she said, gesturing to the pictures that Sean had printed from various sources, stuffed into frames, and put out on the shelf in chronological order the day after they’d opened the pub.
When Finn had asked him what the hell, Sean had simply said “not everyone is as unsentimental as you. Just shut up and enjoy them—and you’re welcome.”
Over the past year new pictures just showed up. More of Sean’s doing. Finn got it. Sean felt guilty for all Finn had given up to raise him, but Finn didn’t want him to feel guilty. He wanted him to take life more seriously.
“It’s changed some,” he allowed cautiously to Pru. He didn’t know how they’d gotten here, on this subject. A few minutes ago she’d been all sweetly, adorably worried about him, wanting to play doctor.
And he’d been game.
“It looks like it’s changed more than some,” she said. “The fun pics stopped.”
“Once I bought the pub, yeah,” he said.
He’d had different plans for himself. Without a maternal influence, and their dad either at work or mean as a skunk, he and Sean had been left to their own devices. A lot. Finn had used those years to grow up as fast and feral and wild as he could. Yeah, he’d been an ace athlete, but he’d also been a punk-ass idiot. He’d skated through on grades, which luckily had come easy for him so his coaches had been willing to put up with his crazy ass to have him on the team. His big plan had been to get drafted into the big leagues, tell his dad to go fuck himself, and retire with a big fat bank account.
It hadn’t exactly gone down like that. Instead, his dad had gotten himself killed in a car accident that had nothing to do with his own road rage—he’d been hit by a drunk driver.
Barely twenty-one, Finn might’ve kept to his plan but Sean had been only fourteen. The kid would’ve been dumped into the system if Finn hadn’t put a lock down on his wild side, grown up, and put them both on the straight and narrow.
It’d been the hardest thing he’d ever done, and there’d been lots of days he wasn’t entirely sure he’d succeeded.
“Well I probably should . . .” Pru trailed off, gesturing vaguely to the door. But she didn’t go. Instead she glanced at his mouth.
As far as signs went, it was a good one. She was thinking of his mouth on hers. Which seemed only fair since he’d given a lot of thought to the same thing.
“’Night,” she whispered.
“Night,” he whispered back.
And yet neither of them moved.
She was still staring at his mouth, and chewing on her lower lip while she was at it. He wanted to lean in and take over, nibbling first one corner of her mouth and then the other, and then maybe he’d take a nibble of her plump lower lip too, before soothing it with his tongue. Then he’d work his way down her body the same to every last square inch of her—