SWEET DAYS Four Days, #2
Patrick Doyle is a rude, selfish and cynical man, but for his friends and family, he’d do anything. His dream of pursuing music came to an abrupt halt after a car accident involving those he loves most in the world after which he dedicated himself to working full time in the pub he manages with his childhood buddies, keeping his distance from love or any other kind of bind.
Erin O’Neill is a bright young woman with her future well planned: she’s about to graduate, she’s got a part-time job in Patrick’s pub and the perfect boyfriend until the unexpected happens, upsetting her life and turning all her well-laid plans upside down, leaving her alone and desperate.
Patrick isn’t the kind of guy to get caught up in other people’s problems, especially if it involves a damsel in distress, but he can’t help coming to her aid and finds himself catapulted into her life against his will—even if he would like to maybe be part of that life—even if that means getting hurt, and hurting her too. Because Patrick destroys everything he touches.
Sweet Days is a complete standalone and a part of the Four Days Series
EXCERPT ~ PROLOGUE
“Could you…could you come to the pub?”
“Has something happened? Are you alright? Is everyone okay?”
“Yes, everybody’s fine, Rain. I just need…” I take a deep breath, trying to back the tears. “Something’s happened and I didn’t know who to call.”
“You’re scaring me now.”
Rain’s voice is a trembling whisper that instantly makes me feel like an idiot for calling her.
“I need a friend, Rain. I need you. Please, I’m desperate.”
“Okay, don’t worry. I’m on my way.”
“I’ll be here,” I say, hot tears starting to run down my face.
“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Thanks,” I blurt out, but she’s already hung up.
I hang up and slide my phone into my jeans pocket. I’ve been locked in the bathroom for ten minutes. My break is over by now and I have to get back to work. I take a look in the mirror, and there, in the reflection, is exactly what I expected: a disaster. My mascara has run down my cheeks and my eyes are framed by dark circles from lack of sleep, uninterrupted crying last night and melted make-up.
I wash my face and take a few deep breaths before opening the door and stepping back into the pub.
Luckily, the place isn’t very crowded; I really don’t have it in me to smile inanely at everyone tonight. I can’t deal with jokes and laughter right now. I take a few steps towards the bar, where I find Patrick chatting to Alan, one of the regulars at Only4You, a middle-aged man who prefers to spend his evenings here instead of at home with his wife. I offer a half-hearted smile and grab the tray to collect the empty glasses on the tables when Patrick spurts out one of his typical comments that usually don’t bother me. But tonight, it could be the final straw.
“Hey, what happened back there? You were gone forever!” he tells me. “I have to take my break too, you know.”
“Sorry, I was on the phone.”
“Trouble in paradise?”
He’s winding me up, and he has no idea how much it hurts.
“Nothing that would interest you, Patrick.”
“You can be sure about that. I don’t think any sane man could be forced to have just one woman.”
I turn slowly, pursing my lips and trying not to burst out sobbing as I answer him.
“Your mate doesn’t seem to mind,” I say, referring to Liam, Rain’s boyfriend.
“He’s not exactly what I’d call an expert source. Besides, we’re talking about Rain: the only woman on the planet who’s intelligent, beautiful and sexy.”
“Wow, thanks,” I reply dryly, hugging the tray against my chest.
“Come on, Erin, you know what I mean.”
“Sure I do Patrick, perfectly: you’re an arsehole. What did women ever do to you?”
“Women?” He bursts out into rude laughter. “Women don’t have any effect on me and you know it. Or maybe they do have an effect – but I doubt you’d want to hear the details,” he concludes, chuckling.
I know Patrick pretty well by now. I’ve been working in this pub for about a year and I’ve met all his girls. His general rule of thumb is to get through two women a week, with no strings attached.
I shake my head and turn away from him. Tonight, I don’t have it in me to go over the same old conversations again. We all know Patrick’s pretty much allergic to the words: relationship, couple and most of all, love.
Just at that moment, Rain makes her entrance. Her face is red and she’s winded. She must have run to get here and I feel guilty for making her worry and drop everything to come over.
“Hey,” she says, running across to hug me, “I got here as fast as I could.”
“Not here,” I whisper, drying my newly wet eyes.
“Something wrong?” Patrick asks to my back.
“Erin’s going on a break,” Rain announces, taking my arm and dragging me towards the back of the pub.
“She just got back!” Patrick adds. “It’s my turn.”
“Well, you can wait another fifteen minutes, or half an hour, or however long this takes,” Rain concludes, nodding to indicate that I should follow her.
Patrick mumbles something about women and PMS and Alan snickers. Instead of answering him back like I normally would, I shoot him a bitter, resentful look – but he must have read more into it because the amused expression on his face changes in an instant. His eyes narrow slightly as if to study me closer, his forehead wrinkled as if he’s thinking.
Almost as if he’s worried.
Rain takes a key out of her pocket and asks me to follow her upstairs to the apartment Liam left after moving in with her.
“Come on up, it’ll be quieter up here.”
I nod and follow her up the stairs, trying to find the right words to tell her that my world has just fallen apart right there on top of me.
~ ~ ~
Erin runs off with Rain, leaving me alone at the bar. I desperately needed a break; I needed time to check out the scene tonight. I’ve marked off at least five possible lays, and I want to start testing the waters to see who I should focus on.
I dry the glasses that I’ve just pulled out of the dishwasher and place them on the shelf, smiling and nodding as Alan keeps spouting his vulgar jokes. My phone starts to vibrate incessantly in my back pocket. I pull it out to see my mother’s name on the display. I step away from the bar to answer her.
“Mum, is everything okay?”
“Of course!” she cries, a little too enthusiastically.
“Why are you calling me?”
“I just wanted to say hi,” she says, but I can tell by her voice that something’s wrong.
“What’s going on?”
She lets out a deep sigh at the other end of the line.
“I didn’t want to call you. You already do so much for us.”
“What do you need?”
“It’s for Ciara.”
“Is she alright? Has something happened?” I look at the bar and see a crowd starting to form, customers waiting for me to get back.
“She’s fine, don’t worry. It’s for university. The fees are just so high, and…”
“How much do you need?” I cut her short. I know how much it pains her to call me for this kind of thing, and I don’t want to drag out her discomfort.
“Just this one time, a little help.”
“Mum,” I interrupt before she can go on. “You don’t have to worry, okay? You know I’m always here for you and the family.”
I hear her sigh again.
“Carl tried to get another job as a delivery man in the evenings, but he works so hard during the day and he’s never home with his family. He’s a good man; a real worker.”
“Yes, I know, and that’s why I’m here. He doesn’t have to take care of everything himself.”
“He’d do anything for us, you know.”
“And I appreciate it – but just let me handle it this time, okay?”
“Thanks, honey. I don’t know what we’d do without you.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“I know that I’m a lucky woman to have such a wonderful son.”
“Stop it,” I tell her, shaking my head even though she can’t see me. “I have to go now. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? You can fill me in then.”
“Sorry, I didn’t want to bother you at work.”
“You didn’t bother me; it’s just I’m on the bar, so I have to go now.”
“Sure, of course. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Okay, talk tomorrow, Ma.”
“And … Patrick?”
“Thanks. I really don’t know what I’d do without you.”
I bite my inner cheek to dull the anger shooting through my skull.
I hang up and slide the phone back into my pocket. I take a deep breath and make my way back to the bar, where Aaron has taken my place.
“Hey, where’d you go?” he asks, pulling someone a pint.
“Sorry, it was my mother, I had to answer.”
“Everything okay at home?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine. Just the usual.”
“Anything I can do?” he asks, stopping for a moment to look me in the eyes.
“Nope, it’s all taken care of.”
“You know if you need anything—”
“No,” I stop him. “I have it under control.”
And I really hope I do.
“Patrick,” he says empathetically, “you know that I’m here for you and that I love your family. If they need anything…”
“I can take care of my own family, Aaron,” I answer bitterly. I always have taken care of them, since I was fifteen years old. I don’t need him or anyone else.
Aaron nods and goes back to work as I try to gather my thoughts. Last month, Danny needed new uniform; the month before that, Carl had an accident at work and was off for two weeks. And now Ciara… I know how much it hurts Mum’s pride to ask me for help, and I have to be honest: sometimes I’m scared I won’t be able to take care of them all. But they’re my family, and I’d give up everything just to give them what they need. I’ll make it work. Hopefully soon, they’ll be able to take care of themselves. I have to stick it out for another three, four years, and then I’ll be able to think about myself, like I’ve always planned to.
And I’ll only think about me.