“See?” she sobbed and tossed up her hands. “Sweet.”
He tried calling his aunt’s cell but she didn’t answer. He drove to the facility and checked it out. It was a nice, clean, surprisingly cheerful place. After, he went to his aunt’s and found her stressing over the arrangements, so he helped her pack and took her to the facility himself.
He felt like shit leaving her there but she seemed relieved to have it done and clearly wanted him out of her hair, so he went back to work.
At the end of the day his body was demanding food, so he found himself at O’Riley’s Pub seeking their famous wings.
And maybe also a Willa sighting.
The pub was one half bar, one half seated dining. The walls were dark wood that gave an old-world feel to the place. Brass lanterns hung from the rafters, and old fence baseboards finished the look, which said antique charm and friendly warmth. And much like the rest of the building, there was holiday décor everywhere. Boughs of holly, strings of twinkling lights, tinsel, and a huge Christmas tree sitting right in the middle of the place.
He wondered if Finn had let Willa loose in here. Seemed likely. Music drifted out of invisible speakers. One wall was all windows that opened to the courtyard. The street view came via a rack of accordion wood-and-glass doors revealing a nice glimpse of Fort Mason Park and the Marina Green down the hill, and the Golden Gate Bridge behind that.
But he paid no attention to any of it. Instead, his gaze went straight to the end of the bar where the O’Riley brothers and their close-knit gang could usually be found.
Willa was in the middle of a huddle with Elle, Pru, Haley, Finn, Archer, and Spence. As he moved closer, he could hear them arguing over several tree toppers sitting on the bar in front of them.
“It’s my turn to decide and I think that one’s the best,” Haley said, her attention on what looked like an intricately woven angel. “Last year was Spence’s turn, and I go after Spence.”
“No, last year was Finn’s turn,” Spence said, pointing to a ceramic star. “And I go after Finn.”
“But it’s got to be the dog,” Willa said, stroking a stuffed Saint Bernard with holly around his neck. “He’s a rescue dog.” She caught sight of Keane and gave a quick, genuine smile. “Hey,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
Apparently looking for you, he thought, his day suddenly not seeming so shitty.
“We’ll have a dart-off,” Archer said, back to the topic at hand. “Three teams of two. Haley, Spence, and Willa will each pick one of the rest of us to be on their team. Best team wins choice of tree topper for their captain. Get your asses to the back.”
When Archer gave people an order, they obeyed. Everyone got up and headed to the back room where the darts were played.
Elle was right on Archer’s heels until he put up a hand to stop her.
Elle went hands on hips. “What have we said about using your words?” she asked him.
“You’re not playing,” Archer said.
Elle looked around her like she couldn’t believe he’d said such a thing. “And since when are you the boss of me?”
Archer pointed to her impossibly high heels. They were black and strappy and revealed her sky blue toenail polish and a silver toe ring. “No one plays darts in sandals,” he said.
“Sandals?” She laughed. “Honey, these are Gucci.”
“I don’t care if they’re flip-flops, it’s safety before beauty. You need to lose them to play, because I’m not risking your toes, even if you’re willing to do so.”
“Let me be crystal clear,” she said. “Not losing the heels.”
“Then you’re not playing.”
“Fine.” Elle stuck a finger in his face. “I hope your team gets its ass kicked.”
Archer looked unaffected. “Never going to happen.”
“You’re down a player now,” Elle said.
Archer turned to Keane. “You play?”
Yeah, he played. He’d been a champion in his bar crawl days, but he gave a slight shrug. “A little.”
Willa stopped in front of Keane, eyes narrowed. “A little or a lot?” she demanded. “Do I want you or Finn?”
“Hey,” Finn said. “Standing right here.”
Keane never took his gaze off Willa. “You want me,” he said with quiet steel.
She flushed to her roots, and he grinned at her.
“I beat all of you just last week,” Finn grumbled. “Even Archer.”
There were pool tables and two dartboards in the back room. Everyone lined up at the dartboards. Archer and Haley, Spence and Finn, and . . . him and Willa.
Haley was good, and no surprise, Archer was great.
Spence and Finn were both off the charts.
“See?” Finn said to the room.
Willa . . . sucked. There was no other word for it.
“Dammit,” she griped when her dart fell off the board.
“I’ve got you,” Keane said and hit a bull’s-eye.
Willa pumped a triumphant fist in the air. “Yes!” She threw herself at Keane and when he caught her, she gave him a smacking kiss right on the lips. Grinning, she stepped back. “The Saint Bernard topper it is!”
“There’s going to be no living with her now,” Finn said. “You all know that, right?”
Archer looked at Keane. “You can aim, you’re tough under pressure, and even better yet, you can lie. Tell me you can shoot and you’re hired—Shit,” he muttered, his attention going to the dance floor. Elle was out there, her heels still firmly in place on her feet, dancing with some guy Keane had never seen before. Dirty dancing.
Archer moved toward them and cut in. Elle looked pissed but allowed it. Sparks flew between them and Keane turned to Willa. “Is that something new?”
“Those two?” Willa laughed. “They fight like that whenever they’re together.”
“Yeah, that’s not what I mean.”
She looked confused and he grinned. “Never mind,” he said. “I’ll explain when you’re older.”
She eyed Archer and Elle again. “They both insist there’s nothing going on.”
He didn’t buy it but it wasn’t his business.
Willa inhaled a deep breath. “It’s getting late. I should go.”